Euro 2020 postponed for a year by Uefa because of coronavirus crisis

David Conn on 17 March 2020

This summer’s European Championship has been postponed until 2021 to allow time for all Europe’s club competitions to be completed by 30 June if at all possible, Uefa has decided, as the football authorities grapple with the unprecedented disruption of the coronavirus pandemic.

The postponement of the Euros to proposed dates of Friday 11 June until Sunday 11 July 2021 and the likely postponement of next summer’s women’s Euros to 2022 were two of a flurry of measures announced on a day when football’s authorities showed determination to give leadership at a time the Uefa president, Aleksander Ceferin, called “the biggest crisis that football faced in its history”.

One of those on Uefa’s teleconference call with all 55 of Europe’s national football associations, the European Club Association, European Leagues and the international players’ union Fifpro confirmed reports that provisional dates have been optimistically scheduled: 27 June for the Champions League final, 24 June for the Europa League final. Calendar formats which are sacrosanct in normal times, such as the Champions League being played in midweek and not at weekends, could be changed in the effort to get games played as soon as governments’ health and travel policies allow.

Two working groups have been formed by Uefa, one to look at the possible resumption and conclusion of the club season “in a coherent manner”, the other “to assess the economic, financial and regulatory impact of the Covid-19 outbreak and propose measures to help mitigate the consequences of the pandemic”, Uefa said.

This year’s Copa América, also due to take place from 11 June to 11 July 2021, has been postponed by the South American Football Federation. The African Nations Championship, scheduled for April in Cameroon and played for solely by players from domestic leagues, has been postponed indefinitely.

Euro 2020 hosts map

Ceferin and Gianni Infantino, the Fifa president, stressed in their public comments their recognition that public health across Europe and the world was the most urgent priority. Infantino said that Fifa would on Wednesday hold a conference call of its council bureau, its inner governing committee composed of a representative from each continental confederation, at which he would suggest making a $10m (£8.3m) donation to the World Health Organisation’s Covid-19 solidarity response fund, and setting up a global football assistance fund “to help members of the football community affected by this crisis”.

Ceferin, in an interview with the Associated Press, said: “We all know that this terrible virus that is all across Europe made football, and all life in Europe, quite impossible. We knew we have to stop the competitions. We think that postponing the Euros is the only chance to get a chance [for] the national leagues and all the club competitions to finish their competitions. That is not sure for now. But we should now think about … health, the [families] of the players, and the players. And of course, we have to think about football as a whole, the whole ecosystem of football. That’s why we have decided today that we postponed the Euro and we have 100% full support of all 55 national associations, European Leagues, European Club Association and Fifpro.”

The Aviva Stadium in Dublin, one of 12 stadiums across Europe that had been due to stage the tournament.
The Aviva Stadium in Dublin, one of 12 stadiums across Europe that had been due to stage the tournament. Photograph: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ceferin said that the postponement of the Euros entails a financial hit of “hundreds of millions of Euros” – in 2018 Uefa announced there would be more than €1bn (£910m) generated from 2020-24, with €371m for tournament prize money, and €775m available for national associations’ football development programmes. Uefa officials had been stressing that up to 40 countries whose domestic game is nowhere near as wealthy as those of England, Germany, Spain, Italy, France and other major football nations greatly rely on that funding.

Ceferin said the plan for next summer would be to retain the new format of hosting by cities in 12 different countries, including Dublin, Glasgow and London, where the final was scheduled to be played at Wembley on 12 July this year. “The plan is to have the same venues, the same cities, the same stadiums,” Ceferin said. “But if anything gets complicated, then we can as well do it with 11, then nine or less stadiums. But the plan is that everything stays the same.”

The women’s European Championship, scheduled to take place from 7 July to 1 August next year in England, is “most likely” to be postponed to the summer of 2022, he said, a more practical possibility because that year’s World Cup in Qatar is due to start in November.

“We are thinking of postponing this women’s Euro as well and the under-21 championship as well,” Ceferin said. “We will have to postpone both because I don’t think that we should cannibalise the women’s Euro, with the men’s Euro just one month before.”

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The FA’s chief executive, Mark Bullingham, said after the conference: “People’s health and wellbeing has to be the primary concern for us all, so we fully support Uefa’s decision to postpone Euro 2020. We will be considering the implications for all England teams and our organisation over the coming days, including any implications on the date of the 2021 women’s Euro which we are very proud to be hosting. We will continue to work in collaboration with the PL, EFL and our football partners on the scenarios that could follow Uefa’s decision today.”

The ECA said it would be part of the working group “to develop and shape the practicalities around managing the calendar to maximise the chances of concluding the remaining club games of the 2019-20 season and tackle the wider consequences of Covid-19 on the game”.

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