A person wearing a protective face mask walks past the Euro 2020 countdown clock, as the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases worldwide continues to grow, in central Saint Petersburg, Russia March 16, 2020. (Reuters)
The Euro 2020 soccer Championship, trumpeted as a continent-wide feast of football to mark the 60th anniversary of UEFA’s flagship tournament, was postponed for a year on Tuesday as the coronavirus pandemic claimed its biggest sporting casualty yet.
The fate of the 24-nation, month-long showpiece due to start in June, had hung in the balance ever since Europe’s domestic leagues shut down in the wake of the sweeping health crisis, which has killed around 7 500 people worldwide.
UEFA, European soccer’s governing body, relayed the news after an emergency video conference with its 55 affiliated national federations and representatives from clubs and leagues.
“It was important that, as the governing body of European football, UEFA led the process and made the biggest sacrifice,” UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said in a statement confirming what the Norwegian and Swedish FAs had leaked earlier.
“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. At times like these... the football community needs to show responsibility, unity, solidarity.”
Even as the video conference was ongoing, Norway’s FA broke ranks to confirm via Twitter that the tournament had been postponed for the first time in its history. Swedish FA chairman Karl-Erik Nilsson also sent a message to Reuters during the video conference. “Postponed until 11/6- 11/7 2021,” he said.
UEFA confirmed those dates shortly after.
On a frantic day for soccer organisers, south American confederation CONMEBOL agreed to delay this year’s Copa America, due to take place in Argentina and Colombia, to 2021.
UEFA’s decision was widely expected, not least because of pressure from Europe’s powerful domestic leagues wrestling with the nightmare scenario of incomplete competitions.
“The move will help all domestic competitions, currently on hold due to the COVID-19 emergency, to be completed,” UEFA said. (Reuters)