Matches moved to summer 2021
Over the past week, most sports leagues and major sporting events have either been postponed or canceled because of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic. On Tuesday, one of the few holdouts, the 2020 UEFA European Championship, was finally postponed until next year.
UEFA held an emergency meeting Tuesday morning, inviting all 55 of its member associations to participate via video conference. Norway FA (NorgesFotballforbund) was the first to break the news, tweeting that the European Championship finals had been postponed. UEFA later confirmed the information with an official announcement.
“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,” said UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin. “It is at times like these that the football community needs to show responsibility, unity, solidarity and altruism.”
The UEFA European Championship finals are now scheduled for June 11 to July 11, 2021.
Scheduling, financial impact to be studied
ESPN reports that two working groups will be assigned going forward. One will be responsible for the new soccer calendar for 2020-21 and will come up with various contingency plans to account for different coronavirus pandemic scenarios. The other group will evaluate the financial impact on European soccer clubs.
Leagues want UEFA to make domestic matches and seasons the priority so that some lost revenue can be recouped. Most leagues, including the Premier League, La Liga, and Serie A, have been suspended because of the COVID-19 spread. Despite the financial harm, leagues and clubs reportedly support UEFA’s decision.
The European leagues hope to be able to complete their seasons this summer, but any plans are tenuous, at best.
Many sports leagues around the world had originally decided to try playing games without fans to eliminate massive gatherings of people. It was quickly decided that even having teams get together was a bad idea, especially as incidents of coronavirus infection were discovered among players.
The thought of celebrating a pan-European festival of soccer in empty stadia…is a joyless one”
Čeferin added that in addition to the primary reason of safety, “The thought of celebrating a pan-European festival of soccer 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.”
Quadrennial soccer celebration
The UEFA European Championship is held every four years, sort of like the World Cup, except just for European nations. It debuted in 1960 and takes place in the even-numbered year in between World Cups. Germany and Spain have won the most titles at three each. The reigning champion is Portugal, which won its first title in 2016.
The European Championship finals were to be held across a dozen host cities, including London, Rome, Munich, and Amsterdam. The other eight cities have never hosted a Euro finals match.
In its statement Tuesday, UEFA guaranteed that if people who already bought ticket packages to the matches cannot attend next year, the face value of their tickets will be refunded in full.