Financial and scheduling implications as Euro 2020 postponed for a year
By Simon Ward
Soccer’s European Championships have, as expected, been postponed until next year as Uefa and its member associations reorganise the calendar and look to complete club competitions disrupted by the ongoing coronavirus emergency.
Euro 2020 was set to take place in 12 countries from 12 June to 12 July, but had been thrown into doubt after Uefa club competitions and national leagues were suspended this month as the virus spread across the continent and travel and social distancing restrictions were put in place in many countries.
Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin held a video conference meeting with the general secretaries of 55 European national associations today, and it has now been confirmed that the event will take place from 11 June to 11 July, 2021, with the Women's Euro 2021 likely to be pushed back to 2022 although that will be decided at a later date.
It is hoped that the delay to Euro 2020 will ensure there is time to conclude domestic leagues and the Uefa Champions League and Europa League in an extended 2019-20 season, albeit this will be dependant on a return to a normal way of life in Europe.
Ceferin admitted that there will be "a huge cost" to moving Euro 2020, but added that Uefa will endeavour to ensure that development funding across the continent is maintained.
The showpiece competition was expected to generate up to €2.5 billion ($2.75 billion) in revenue, and deliver economic benefits for each of the 12 hosts, and Uefa now faces the prospect of having to rebook stadiums, hotels and other facilities for the event.
Uefa also had video calls with representatives of the European Club Association, European Leagues and FIFPro Europe, an arm of the international players' union, to discuss the impact of the rescheduling.
A working group has been established involving leagues and club representatives to consider the calendar and other consequences of today's decision. New dates for the 2021 Champions League and Europa League finals, in Istanbul and Gdansk respectively, have yet to be decided.
Elsewhere, Alejandro Dominguez, the president of Conmebol, the South American confederation, has agreed to postpone this year's Copa America in Argentina and Colombia until next year, in part because of the rescheduling of the European Championships and player release issues.
European national team matches are presently suspended, but Uefa envisages that Euro 2020 play-off matches and friendlies that were scheduled for the end of this month can be played in the international window at the start of June.
This is the first time that the European Championships, which began in 1960, have had to be postponed, and there will be implications for other competitions beyond the Women's Euro 2021, including the second edition of the Uefa Nations League scheduled for 2020-21, the 2021 European Under-21 Championship in Hungary and Slovenia and the relaunched Fifa Club World Cup in China in 2021.
Fifa president Gianni Infantino said today that there would be a conference call of the Fifa Council on Wednesday at which he would support the postponements of the European Championships and the Copa America to 2021, and propose that a decision be made at a later stage, in co-operation with the Chinese Football Association and the Chinese government, whether to reschedule the Club World Cup to later in 2021 or to 2022 or 2023.
The Euro 2020 finals tournament was spread across Europe to mark the 60th anniversary of the European Championships, and was due to start in Rome in Italy, one of the countries most affected by the coronavirus, and culminate with the semi-finals and final in London.
Uefa has pledged that ticket-holders will be able to claim full refunds if unable to attend the championships in 2021.
At its congress in Amsterdam just two weeks ago, Uefa was non-committal about the possibility of rescheduling Euro 2020, saying that its priority was more imminent club and national teams matches.
However, the escalating coronavirus emergency, and calls from national associations led by Italy’s FIGC for a postponement, has prompted an unprecedented switch.
Earlier this month, Uefa reported turnover of €3.86 billion for the 12 months to 30 June, 2019, up from €2.79 billion in the previous year, but projections for 2019-20 will have to be significantly downscaled given the impact of the coronavirus and the non-staging of its national teams showpiece.
Reaction In a statement today, Ceferin said: "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. It is at times like these, that the football community needs to show responsibility, unity, solidarity and altruism.
"The health of fans, staff and players has to be our number one priority and in that spirit, 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. There was a real spirit of co-operation, with everyone recognising that they had to sacrifice something in order to achieve the best result.
"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. Purpose over profit has been our guiding principle in taking this decision for the good of European football as a whole."
Ceferin thanked the European national associations, ECA, European Leagues and FIFPro Europe for their co-operation, adding that further details would be worked out in the coming weeks.
He added: "I would also like to thank Alejandro Dominguez and Conmebol, who have agreed to move Conmebol's 2020 Copa America in order to follow the recommendations issued by the international public health organisations to enact extreme measures and as a result of Euro 2020 being postponed. This means that clubs and leagues in Europe will have as little disruption as possible in the availability of their players. These joint efforts and especially this coordinated and responsible decision, are deeply appreciated by the whole European football community.
"I would like to thank Fifa and its president, Gianni Infantino, who has indicated it will do whatever is required to make this new calendar work. In the face of this crisis, football has shown its best side with openness, solidarity and tolerance.”
Andrea Agnelli, the chairman of the ECA and a Uefa executive committee member, said on Tuesday: "Europe is facing its biggest challenge in a generation, one which is impacting all levels of society including football. The challenge to our game is massive and as leaders we have a responsibility to do all we can to protect its long-term well-being by mitigating the impact of the virus.
"Today’s decision to postpone the Uefa Euro 2020 is testament to the unity and collaborative efforts of professional game stakeholders to engage in collective decision-making in the best interest of the game. The focus now will be to come up with solutions to conclude the 2019-20 club season in the most practical manner and, beyond that, ensure football, like society as a whole, returns as quickly as possible to its natural form and rhythm.”
Fifa is less directly affected by the global coronavirus outbreak given that its major event, the World Cup, is not due to take place, in Qatar, until the end of 2022, although it faces a quandary over the Club World Club, which is being remodelled as a potential new money-spinner, with 24 teams, up from seven at present.
In a statement, Infantino said: "The world is facing an unprecedented health challenge and clearly a global and collective response is needed. Cooperation, mutual respect and understanding must be the guiding principles for all decision makers to have in mind at this crucial moment in time. Particularly in football, finding appropriate and fair solutions at global level is imperative. This requires unity, solidarity and a shared sense of responsibility and we need to think of all those around the world potentially impacted by our decisions.
"With this in mind, Fifa has constantly been discussing with confederations, member associations and other stakeholders from around the world, also bearing in mind that firstly health and secondly sporting solidarity are paramount considerations for the world of football."
To show its support for the fight against coronavirus, Fifa has pledged $10 million to the World Health Organisation COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
Infantino concluded that "it goes without saying that Fifa will keep in regular contact with all members of the football community during this difficult period. As I stated yesterday, challenging circumstances offer the opportunity for people to come together, show what they can do in a collective spirit, and emerge stronger and better prepared for the future. And this is what Fifa is aiming to do here."