Virus can affect calendar for years: UEFA executive committee member

Reuters
Chairman Olsson addresses the media after a general assembly of EPFL in Zurich
Chairman Olsson addresses the media after a general assembly of EPFL in Zurich

(Reuters) - The COVID-19 crisis could hit soccer's international calendar for "two to three years" and potentially affect the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Lars-Christer Olsson, an executive committee member of European football's governing body UEFA has said.

The novel coronavirus, which has infected over 3.13 million people globally causing more than 218,000 deaths, has wreaked havoc on the soccer schedule with Euro 2020 postponed to 2021 and national leagues and continental club competitions on hold.

The Qatar World Cup is set to take place from Nov. 21-Dec. 18, 2022 and Olsson said it was a case of "wait and see" if the quadrennial event would be hit.

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Asked during a Soccerex webinar how long he thought the international calendar could be affected, Olsson said: "Probably two or three years I think."

"If the virus is developing in an even more serious way as it's been for the time being, there will definitely be a problem with the international calendar.

"When some of the competitions are moved from one year to another...and then the Qatar World Cup is coming in the middle of the European season and you have to squeeze in domestic and international competitions.

"But I think we have to wait and see how that is going to affect the business."

Olsson, who is also the president of European Leagues, said UEFA was planning to complete the Champions League and Europa League in August.

"If that would be possible, then I think it would be fine because that would also mean that we can safeguard the integrity of the final phase of the current season of international football," he added.

"But of course we have to take decisions about that at the end of May at least, because otherwise it will probably not be possible to squeeze it in and also to qualify the clubs for the new season."


(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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