Euro 2020 postponed until 2021 due to coronavirus
Euro 2020 has been postponed until 2021 after UEFA reached an agreement with key governing bodies on Tuesday, following the global coronavirus pandemic.
The 24-team European Championship, which was being held across Europe to mark UEFA's 60th anniversary, will now take place from June 11 to July 11 in 2021.
UEFA relayed the news after an emergency video conference with all 55 of its affiliated national federations and representatives from clubs and leagues on Tuesday in which it also confirmed all UEFA competitions and matches (including friendlies) for clubs and national teams for both men and women have been put on hold until further notice, including playoffs.
This means that European domestic leagues, postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak, are now free to complete their schedule as they wish. UEFA also said a working group has been set up with the participation of leagues and club representatives to examine calendar solutions that would allow for the completion of the season and any other consequence of the decisions made on Tuesday.
"We are at the helm of a sport that vast numbers of people live and breathe that has been laid low by this invisible and fast-moving opponent," UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said in a statement confirming what had been leaked by the Norwegian and Swedish FAs earlier in the day.
"It is at times like these, that the football community needs to show responsibility, unity, solidarity and altruism."
"It is the biggest crisis that football faced in history," Ceferin added in a television interview with The Associated Press from his native Slovenia. "We all know that this terrible virus that is all across Europe made football and all life in Europe quite impossible. We knew we have to stop the competitions."
Sixteen playoff matches were due to be held on March 26 and 31 to decide the full line-up of nations for the tournament. They will now be played in the international window at the start of June, subject to a review of the situation.
The European Championship generates around €2 billion for UEFA from sponsors and broadcasters -- companies that will also feel the wider repercussions of a virus that is bringing so much of life in Europe to a standstill.
"The economic situation in Europe and in the world will harm us as well," Ceferin told the AP. "It's not only about the losses that we will have directly with postponing of the Euro, but it will affect all the economy. And now today, it's time for unity and for deciding. And tomorrow, it's time to start assessing the possible damages. But I still think I'm sure that we all together will finish this and come. We will come out stronger than ever."
The sporting calendar has been shredded, with a host of blue-riband events cancelled and competitions suspended, and the fate of the Tokyo Olympics this year now hangs in the balance.
All five of Europe's top domestic soccer leagues -- England, Spain, Italy, France and Germany -- are suspended, along with the Champions League, Europa League and World Cup qualifiers.
UEFA said in a statement later on Tuesday that it intends to complete the all domestic and European club competitions by June 30, 2020 at the latest.
Sources told ESPN that Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid expressed their "satisfaction and relief" at the decision to postpone Euro 2020, and both welcome the understanding of UEFA toward the clubs. And Spanish FA president Luis Rubiales echoed UEFA's hope of completing the league seasons by late June.
Meanwhile, the English and French football associations were also quick to back the decision, as was European Club Association chairman and Juventus president Andrea Agnelli.
This year's 12-nation Copa America was also postponed until 2021 on Tuesday, the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) said.
With the Euros and Copa now postponed for a year, it could provide some flexibility for domestic competitions, all left in various states of limbo by the stoppage, to be concluded once the pandemic eases.
Leagues had urged UEFA to give priority to completing domestic competitions, as clubs throughout Europe feared they would lose significant ticket and associated match-day revenue by not completing the season while still having to pay player salaries.
"UEFA tabled a range of options so that competitions can finish this season safely, and I am proud of the response of my colleagues across European football," Ceferin said.
While the domestic leagues will welcome the news, next year's international football calendar already looks crammed.
Moving the Euros to June 11-July 11 2021 means moving into a slot reserved by FIFA for its newly-expanded Club World Cup, featuring eight European clubs, which had yet to find financing or agree to a format after tensions with UEFA over the concept.
The women's European Championship is due to be held in England in the summer, and FIFA's revamped Club World Cup in China is pencilled in from June 17-July 4.
"I spoke to the FIFA president [Gianni Infantino] this morning," Ceferin said. "I told him that it's likely to happen, that the Euro will be postponed to 2021. And of course, it's my opinion and I think it's the only possible solution that the Club World Cup that year  cannot happen."
Ceferin said it was "most likely" the women's Euro would move to 2022.
"I don't think that we should cannibalize the women's Euro with the men's Euro just one month before," Ceferin said.
The host cities of Euro 2020, the first to be staged across the continent rather than hosted by a single or joint-host nations, were Glasgow, Dublin, Bilbao, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Munich, Rome, St Petersburg, Bucharest, Budapest and Baku, with the climax set for London's Wembley Stadium.
"The plan is to have the same venues, the same cities, the same stadiums," Ceferin told AP. "But if anything gets complicated, then we can as well do it with 11, then nine or less stadiums. But the plan is that everything stays the same."
Following the news, Infantino issued a statement of his own on Tuesday saying he has scheduled a conference call to address the measures taken by UEFA and discuss next steps.
Information from Reuters and The Associated Press was used in this report.