This year’s Euro 2020 has been postponed for a year as the world fights to contain the global coronavirus pandemic, UEFA confirmed yesterday.
European football’s governing body said it wanted to avoid “placing any unnecessary pressure on national public services” of its 12 host countries – the quadrennial tournament was spread across 12 different cities for the first time.
UEFA added it hoped the postponement – the European Championship will now take place from June 11 to July 11, 2021 – would “help all domestic competitions, currently on hold due to the Covid-19 emergency, to be completed”.
Its president, Aleksander Ceferin, said: “We are at the helm of a sport that vast numbers of people live and breathe that has been laid low by this invisible and fast-moving opponent.
“It is at times like these, that the football community needs to show responsibility, unity, solidarity and altruism.
“The health of fans, staff and players has to be our No. 1 priority and in that spirit, UEFA tabled a range of options so that competitions can finish this season safely and I am proud of the response of my colleagues across European football.
“There was a real spirit of co-operation, with everyone recognising that they had to sacrifice something in order to achieve the best result.”
Ceferin added UEFA had made “the biggest sacrifice”, and it was something that had come “at a huge cost” but “purpose over profit has been our guiding principle in taking this decision for the good of European football as a whole”.
The play-offs, which had been scheduled for the end of this month and will decide the remaining four teams, will now be played at the start of June “subject to a review of the situation”.
The organisation had been under pressure to push back Euro 2020 to give the major European football leagues, including the big five of England, Italy, Germany, Spain and France, time for the current season – now halted – to be completed, assuming that the outbreak eases and travel restrictions are lifted.
As such, UEFA held a video conference with all 55 of its affiliated national football federations and representatives of clubs, leagues and players yesterday.
Italy has been hit particularly hard – with 27,980 cases and 2,158 deaths as of yesterday, they are the second-most affected country outside of China, whose province of Hubei is the epicentre of the contagion.
Spain, Germany, France, Switzerland, Britain, Belgium, Austria, the Netherlands and Scandinavia have also been ravaged by Covid-19.
The European leagues had urged UEFA to prioritise finishing both domestic and the continental Champions League and Europa League competitions, reflecting a concern that clubs would lose significant ticket and associated match-day revenue if the season was abruptly curtailed while still having to pay their players’ salaries.
Cancelled campaigns would have also risked significant compensation claims from rights-holding TV broadcasters.
This is the first time in the competition’s history that the final stages have been postponed. The last Euro tournament, which was held in France in 2016, generated total revenue of close to €2 billion (S$3.14 billion) for Uefa.
The Covid-19 crisis has also led to the postponement of this year’s Copa America, which had been set for June 12 to July 12 in Colombia and Argentina, by a year.
An official statement by Alejandro Dominguez, the president of the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol), yesterday read: “This is an extraordinary measure for an unexpected situation and responds to the fundamental need to avoid the exponential evolution of the virus.
“It wasn’t easy to take this decision, but we must safeguard at all times the health of our players and all those who form part of the big South American football family.
“Have no doubts that the oldest international tournament in the world will be back stronger than ever in 2021.”
Dominguez added that the rescheduled event would be played from June 11 to July 11 next year.