PARIS: The prestigious Ballon dOr will not be awarded this year because the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the football season.

Awarded by France Football magazine, the Ballon d’Or has been given out every year since Stanley Matthews won the first one in 1956. Lionel Messi has won it a record six times one more than longtime rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

The magazine started giving out a women’s award in 2018, but that has also been put on hold.

“Its such a strange year that we couldn’t treat it as an ordinary one. Let’s say that we started talking about [making the decision] at least two months ago,” France Football editor Pascal Ferr said in a telephone interview.

“It isn’t a decision we took lightly but we had to accept it couldn’t be a normal or typical Ballon d’Or winner, and what really worried us it that it wouldn’t be fairly awarded.”

Because the games rules have been modified during the pandemic, the award itself was impacted.

“The season started with certain rules and ended with other rules. In January and February, football was played in front of full stands. Then from May and June it was with empty stands,” Ferr said. “Then we had the five substitutes rule and not three. Then other changes happened in terms of the competitions, notably the final eight [eight-team knockout format] for the Champions League when it had started with home and away legs.”

With the European Championship and the Copa America postponed this year, the Champions League would have massively weighed on the awards outcome but with a format inadvertently providing a shortcut for an eventual victor.

The Ballon d’Or would have been decided over just three games: quarter-final, semi-final, final,” Ferr said. “There were loads of changes [to soccer’s rules] which are totally legitimate and which we don’t contest given the worldwide health crisis, but we could’nt consider this as a typical year. Exceptional circumstances led to an exceptional decision.”

The Kopa Trophy for the best player under 21 and the Lev Yashin award for best goalkeeper have also been canceled this year, Ferr said.

Without the Ballon d’Or, The Best awards by FIFA will be the prized individual honours in world football this year.

FIFA plans to organize the voting in several categories but it is unclear how or where the awards will be made.