The European Championship has been moved to the summer of 2021 as UEFA made “the biggest sacrifice” to tackle the disruption to the football calendar caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
A meeting convened by European football’s governing body agreed to switch the tournament in order to find a way to break the logjam of fixtures created by the spread of the virus throughout the continent.
The new dates proposed are June 11 to July 11, 2021, and the move appears to have met with the approval of national associations across the continent.
UEFA confirmed the Euro 2020 play-offs, due to be played this month, would now take place in the June international window.
The Women’s Euros, as well as the Nations League Finals and Under-21 Euros, all of which were due to take place in the summer of 2021, will be rescheduled, but there are not yet new dates for the Champions League and Europa League finals.
UEFA, the European Club Association, European Leagues and players’ union FIFPRO Europe have signed a joint resolution committing to completing all domestic and European club competitions by June 30, “should the situation improve and resuming playing be appropriate and prudent enough”.
To help with scheduling, domestic league matches might be played in mid-week and UEFA competition matches on weekends.
In the event the club season cannot be completed by the end of June, the qualifying rounds for next season’s Champions and Europa Leagues may be adapted.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin admitted the postponement of Euro 2020 came at “huge cost” to the governing body but that ploughing ahead – potentially behind closed doors – was not something UEFA had wanted to consider.
“There was a real spirit of co-operation, with everyone recognising that they had to sacrifice something in order to achieve the best result,” he said following Tuesday’s meeting.
“It was important that, as the governing body of European football, UEFA led the process and made the biggest sacrifice.
“Moving Euro 2020 comes at a huge cost for UEFA but we will do our best to ensure that the vital funding for grassroots, women’s football and the development of the game in our 55 countries is not affected.
“Football is an uplifting and powerful force in society. The thought of celebrating a pan-European festival of football in empty stadia, with deserted fan zones while the continent sits at home in isolation, is a joyless one and one we could not accept to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the competition.”
Ceferin was later pressed on the financial impact moving the showpiece championships would have on Europe’s governing body. “We will start assessing that these days, but it will go to hundreds of millions of euros,” he said.
“I’ve seen some fake news these days that we were putting a condition that leagues and clubs pay us the amount of 300million (euros) (£272m) to postpone the Euro. I can say that it’s a complete nonsense. We didn’t ask them to pay anything as a condition to postpone the Euro.”
Ceferin stressed the plan was to “have the same venues, the same cities, the same stadiums”, but that they could operate with a reduced number of grounds if circumstances dictate.
UEFA would like to reassure ticket holders that if they cannot attend the tournament in 2021, the face value of their tickets will be refunded in full.
— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) March 17, 2020
The Women’s Euros, as well as the Nations League Finals and Under-21 Euros, all of which were due to take place in the summer of 2021, will be rescheduled.
“I don’t think that we should cannibalise the women’s Euro with the men’s Euro just one month before,” Ceferin said.
The UEFA president added: “I would say it is the biggest crisis that football faced in history, but it is also a possibility to, as you said, to reset some things, put some things differently.
“Honestly speaking, I’m optimistic about the future. We will have to be a bit careful at the beginning, but we are capable of coming back.”
The postponement of the Copa America will allow South American stars based in Europe such as Roberto Firmino to fulfil their club commitments (Peter Byrne/PA)This summer’s Copa America has also been postponed until 2021 so that South American players can finish their club seasons in Europe.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino said the postponements of Euro 2020 and Copa America 2020 until next year would be formally accepted on Wednesday.
The Club World Cup – the first of the expanded tournaments is due to take place in China in the summer of 2021 – will also be discussed, with that competition set to be rescheduled either until later in 2021, 2022 or 2023.
In a statement from Infantino, the world governing body pledged a direct contribution of USD 10million to the World Health Organisation Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
He said: “To protect the interests of all stakeholders and competition organisers, whether they be national, continental or worldwide, I have called for a bureau of the council conference call tomorrow to see how we can progress matters collectively.
“During this call, I will suggest the following next steps: to accept the postponements of the CONMEBOL 2020 Copa America and the UEFA Euro 2020 to the June/July of 2021; to decide at a later stage – when there is more clarity on the situation – when to reschedule the new FIFA Club World Cup, later in 2021, in 2022 or in 2023.”
— FIFA Media (@fifamedia) March 17, 2020
Ceferin thanked Infantino, saying: “In the face of this crisis, football has shown its best side with openness, solidarity and tolerance.”
Meanwhile, England’s June friendlies against Austria and Romania have been called off.
Gareth Southgate’s men were due to travel to Vienna for a friendly on June 2 before facing Romania at Villa Park on June 7.
Juventus and France midfielder Blaise Matuidi has tested positive for the virus.
The 32-year-old “is in voluntary home isolation, is asymptomatic and is fine,” according to the Serie A club.
A statement on the club’s website read: “The player, as of Wednesday 11 March, has been in voluntary home isolation.
“He will continue to be monitored and will follow the same regime. He is well and is asymptomatic.”
The summer’s other big sporting attraction, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, is still on schedule according to the International Olympic Committee.
Following meetings with international sports federations, the IOC said it remained “fully committed” to the Games, which are due to start on July 24.
Communique from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) regarding the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 https://t.co/EumE9qtROI
— IOC MEDIA (@iocmedia) March 17, 2020
“The IOC remains fully committed to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, and with more than four months to go before the Games there is no need for any drastic decisions at this stage; and any speculation at this moment would be counter-productive,” a statement said.
Tennis’ second major of the year, the French Open, has been postponed until September, organisers said.
The clay court tournament, staged in Paris, has been put back to a September 20 start date and is due to conclude on October 4.
An update on my situation, stay safe everyone pic.twitter.com/8mDPOBGmI8
— Alex Hales (@AlexHales1) March 17, 2020
In cricket, England batsman Alex Hales has revealed he is in self-isolation after developing coronavirus symptoms.
The 31-year-old returned home early from the Pakistan Super League – which has subsequently been postponed – on Saturday and began feeling ill on Sunday.
The worldwide sporting calendar continued to be decimated by the pandemic with racing, snooker, athletics, boxing, cycling and swimming all called off.
All racing in Britain will be suspended from Wednesday until the end of April.
Snooker’s Coral Tour Championship has been postponed along with the first three Diamond League athletics meetings of the season.
The British Boxing Board of Control has announced that “all public tournaments” under its jurisdiction have been cancelled, and the position will be reviewed in early April.
British Cycling has suspending all activities until at least April 30, while the Tour de Yorkshire has been postponed.
British Swimming confirmed the Diving World Series event scheduled for London later this month has been postponed with the British Swimming Championships and British Para-Swimming International Meet cancelled, and British Eventing suspended all fixtures with immediate effect.
The final Hillsborough memorial service, which was due to take place at Anfield on April 15, has also been postponed.
In golf, the entire 2020 schedule and season for the third-tier PGA EuroPro Tour, which incorporates all events and Q School, has been cancelled.