UEFA postpones soccer’s Euro 2020 by a year over coronavirus

President Aleksander Ceferin says virus outbreak currently makes soccer ‘and all life in Europe quite impossible’

In this file photo taken on September 21, 2016 a screen displays the logo for the 2020 UEFA European Championship football tournament in London during a launch event. (JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP)
In this file photo taken on September 21, 2016 a screen displays the logo for the 2020 UEFA European Championship football tournament in London during a launch event. (JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP)

GENEVA (AP) — This year’s European Championship was postponed for one year on Tuesday because of the coronavirus outbreak.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said the spreading virus currently “makes football [soccer] and all life in Europe quite impossible.”

The tournament is now scheduled to be played from next June 11 to July 11.

The UEFA executive committee made the decision after hosting a video conference call with its 55 national member federations.

The European Championship final typically attracts a broadcast audience of 300 million worldwide and made UEFA a profit of 830 million euros ($912 million) four years ago.

“Moving Euro 2020 comes at a huge cost for UEFA,” Ceferin said in a statement.

The decision was taken during an intense day of talks with member federations and the leaders of European club soccer, which is in a near-total shutdown.

In this file photo taken on March 27, 2019 Skillzy, the official mascot for the Euro 2020 football tournament, is seen during a presentation at the Saint Petersburg Stadium in Saint Petersburg. (OLGA MALTSEVA / AFP)

It is still far from clear when the public health crisis could ease enough for European soccer to resume. Still, taking Euro 2020 off the calendar clears valuable weeks in which domestic leagues and cups, and the Champions League and Europa League, could be completed.

“We think postponing the Euro is the only (way) to get a chance to the national leagues and to all the club competitions to finish,” Ceferin said.

Euro 2020 was scheduled to start on June 12 in 12 countries from Ireland to Azerbaijan, and Russia to Italy. A one-year postponement became UEFA’s favored option last week.

The freeze on games amid the pandemic 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 on Tuesday 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.

Strasbourg’s French forward Ludovic Ajorque (L) vies with Maccabi Haifa’s midfielder Neta Lavi during the UEFA Europa League preliminary round football match at the Meinau stadium in Strasbourg, on July 25, 2019. (PATRICK HERTZOG / AFP)

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. The likely last available date to play the final is June 27.

Also, 16 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, and could now be played in early June.

Postponing Euro 2020 has also created a backlog of national team games in a packed calendar managed by FIFA.

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.

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