KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING — UEFA has called a halt to the Champions League and Europa League. The decision was inevitable as coronavirus control measures across Europe meant its two flagship club competitions were already grinding to a halt.
The European federation had already decided to summon a video conference next Tuesday of all 55 member associations and other stakeholders to consider the consequences of the crisis and a possible postponement of the Euro 2020 finals in June and July.
Most major European leagues have now been suspended as well as those in China, Japan and South Korea plus 2020 World Cup qualifying fixtures in Asia and South America.
A statement from the European federation said:
In the light of developments due to the spread of COVID-19 in Europe and related decisions made by different governments, all UEFA club competitions matches scheduled next week are postponed.
This includes the remaining UEFA Champions League, Round of 16 second leg matches scheduled on 17 and 18 March 2020; all UEFA Europa League, Round of 16 second leg matches scheduled on 19 March 2020; all UEFA Youth League, quarter-final matches scheduled on 17 and 18 March 2020.
Further decisions on when these matches take place will be communicated in due course.
As a consequence of the postponements, the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League quarter-final draws scheduled for 20 March have also been postponed.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin told UEFA’s annual congress last week in Amsterdam that the consequences of the high-speed spread of coronavirus would be dealt with on a “case by case basis.”
This week, however, his words have been overtaken by events with a floodtide of postponements and closed-door orders following governmental control measures.
This has turned out to be the worst possible year in which UEFA should have chosen to stage its European Championship finals in 12 countries rather than the traditional one or two.
The possibility of finding one potential host for the tournament between June 12 and July 12 has been raised; Turkey has been suggested. But there would no guarantee that all the qualified teams could travel to attend.
In any case four slots still remain to be decided by playoffs later this month and these ties are in doubt because several of the eight countries involved have either suspended or imposed closed-door orders on their own club competitions.
One option would be postponing the Euro finals until next year and squeezing them in ahead of the scheduled European Women’s Euro in England.
A postponement of Euro 2020 would, like everything else, have a knock-on effect on the international calendar because next summer is also precisely when FIFA’s newly-expanded Club World Cup is scheduled to be launched in China.
Ongoing developments over the past 48 hours have seen individual players in England, Germany and Italy testing positive for coronavirus and/or placing themselves in protective self-isolation.
Wales’ friendly international later this month against the United States has been cancelled after MLS was suspended and President Donald Trump instituted transatlantic travel controls. The same fate awaits England’s friendlies against Italy and Denmark.