LAUSANNE: UEFA has postponed the European Championship, due to take place across the continent in June and July this year, until 2021 after holding crisis meetings, European football’s governing body said on Tuesday.
The move comes with global sport having largely ground to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic which has led to lockdowns in several countries and border closures.
UEFA said the postponement would allow “priority” to be given to finishing domestic leagues that have been suspended due to the crisis.
“The move will help all domestic competitions, currently on hold due to the COVID-19 emergency, to be completed,” UEFA said in a statement.
It said playoffs to decide the remaining qualifiers for the European Championships “will now be played in the international window at the start of June, subject to a review of the situation.”
The new tournament dates will be June 11 to July 11, the Norwegian football association announced during a conference call that UEFA hosted with its 55 national member federations.
The UEFA executive committee was due to make a formal decision in a separate consultation immediately after the members’ session.
A busy day of back-to-back calls for UEFA began with a session based on club football’s challenges to complete the current season that is now on hold.
Euro 2020 was scheduled to start on June 12 hosted by 12 different countries from Ireland to Azerbaijan, and Russia to Italy. A one-year postponement became UEFA’s favored option last week. It would clear several weeks in the congested calendar to complete domestic league and cup competitions, plus the Champions League and Europa League.
Still, it is far from clear when the public health crisis could ease enough for European football to emerge from its near-total shutdown.
The freeze on games has put broadcasting deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars on hold and could lead to the 2019-20 season being annulled in some competitions.
UEFA’s first call was with leaders of the European Club Association and European Leagues groups, plus the FIFPro players’ union.
Completing domestic league seasons would allow titles to be awarded and decide entries for the next Champions League and Europa League. The first qualifying games are already scheduled for late June.
If resuming the season is possible, UEFA’s options to complete this season include playing the quarterfinals and semifinals as single games instead of over two legs where each team has a home match.
The Champions League final is scheduled for May 30 in Istanbul, but the Turkish city could also be asked host the semifinals in a mini-tournament at a later date.
Sixteen of UEFA’s members are involved in the Euro 2020 playoffs, which were scheduled to be played on March 26 and 31. They will decide the last four entries in the 24-nation final tournament.
Postponing Euro 2020 has also created a backlog of national team games in a packed calendar managed by FIFA.
The June 2021 was occupied by the UEFA Nations League final tournament of four teams, plus the start of FIFA’s inaugural 24-team Club World Cup. It is due to be hosted in China and feature eight European clubs but no broadcasting or sponsor deals have yet been announced.
FIFA has not commented on revising its Club World Cup plan.
Qualifying games for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar are also scheduled for June 2021 in most European countries. There is currently no space in the calendar to reschedule all those games, and a reduced qualifying program will likely be considered.
However, any cuts in national team matches will impact member federations’ revenue and centralized broadcasting deals managed by UEFA.