A decision over whether to postpone football’s Euro 2020 by up to a year, with all the sporting and financial consequences that would entail, is set to be made when UEFA holds a crisis meeting on Tuesday as Europe battles the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
European football’s governing body will hold a videoconference with representatives from all 55 member associations as well as from clubs and players bodies. UEFA will then hold an executive committee meeting at 1400 (1300 GMT) at their Swiss headquarters.
The future of the European Championship, due to take place for the first time in 12 different cities spread across the continent from June 12 to July 12, is up in the air along with those of the Champions League and Europa League.
The “dark scenarios” that UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin warned against envisaging when he spoke at the organisation’s congress in Amsterdam just two weeks ago now have to be considered.
All of Europe’s leading domestic leagues ground to a halt last week, while UEFA suspended all Champions League and Europa League games due to be played this week. Both tournaments are still in the last-16 stage.
Europe has become the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, with Italy and Spain on lockdown, France gradually following suit, and other countries closing borders to halt the spread of the outbreak.
More than 1,800 people have died in Italy, which is supposed to host the opening game of Euro 2020 in Rome.
– Postponed for a year? –
The head of the Italian football federation, Gabriele Gravina, has already proposed that the Euro be postponed, with Italy coach Roberto Mancini calling for it to pushed back 12 months.
“We would have won the European Championship this summer, we can also win it in 2021,” Mancini told television station Rai Sport.
It is a position that many around the continent are coming round to amid much uncertainty as to when club football can resume.
“UEFA has no choice. They have to postpone the Euro and the Champions League,” one senior figure in the world game told AFP, although finding agreement across the board may not be easy.
“There are people who want to play, and others who don’t,” French football federation president Noel Le Graet told broadcaster TF1 on Sunday.
German broadcaster ZDF reported that two possible options are on the table for the European Championship.
One is to push it back to 2021, although that is not as simple as it might appear, as it would need FIFA president Gianni Infantino to agree to halting the inaugural edition of his highly lucrative Club World Cup, due to take place in June and July next year in China with some of Europe’s top club sides involved.
FIFA offered “no comment” on Monday on the matter.
There is also the issue of the women’s European Championship, scheduled to run from July 7 to August 1 next year in England, with the final at Wembley. The London venue is also supposed to hold the semi-finals and final of Euro 2020.
The alternative option, according to ZDF, is to maintain a Euro 2020 by playing it towards the end of the year.
– Financial stakes ‘enormous’ –
That supposes that the crisis will have calmed down by then, and there is also the issue of all the other football that has been suspended.
Le Graet said “it is probable” that all friendly matches scheduled to be played at the end of this month will be postponed. Play-off matches to decide the last four berths at Euro 2020 can be expected to go the same way.
In any case, world governing body FIFA has already moved to say that clubs no longer need to release players for the scheduled international dates.
They may come to a decision to try to complete the Champions League and Europa League by curtailing the competitions, meaning ties up to the semi-finals could be decided in one-off matches.
From a financial viewpoint, UEFA would undoubtedly prefer postponing their flagship tournaments to cancelling them altogether, or playing matches behind closed doors.
“The financial stakes are enormous,” according to one senior figure in the international game. “We know that FIFA has significant reserves but we don’t know about UEFA or the different leagues.”
In any case, the European Leagues grouping of almost a thousand clubs in 29 countries across the continent warned that “cooperation, coordination and flexibility are going to be essential”.