KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- UEFA has summoned a crisis summit video-conference next Tuesday as football competitions across the continent grind towards a standstill.

President Aleksander Ceferin, at the European federation’s annual congress last week in Amsterdam, said that the consequences of the high-speed spread of coronavirus would be dealt with on a “case by case basis.”

This week, however, the “cases” have cascaded into a floodtide of postponements and closed-door orders affecting not only national domestic leagues but UEFA’s own club competitions and threatening the Euro 2020 finals in June and July.

Aleksander Ceferin . . . difficult decisions ahead

UEFA and world governing body FIFA have paid lip-service down the years to warnings by managers and players that the football calendar was over-stocked with competitions and matches.

Now UEFA has come face-to face with the stark reality that that there is no room to turn in case of major disruption.


A statement from UEFA’s Nyon headquarters said:

In the light of the ongoing developments in the spread of COVID-19 across Europe and the changing analysis of the World Health Organisation, UEFA has today invited representatives of its 55 member associations, together with the boards of the European Club Association and the European Leagues and a representative of [players’ union] FIFPro, to attend meetings by videoconference on Tuesday 17 March to discuss European football’s response to the outbreak.

Discussions will include all domestic and European competitions, including UEFA EURO 2020.

Spain’s authorities have postponed the LaLiga programme for two weeks after Real Madrid’s players and staff were put into quarantine because of a coronavirus case in their basketball outfit.

Simultaneously Denmark, Irish Republic and Netherlands became the latest UEFA member nations to effectively call a halt to public sports events. Clarification is pending on whether domestic football goes behind closed doors or stops altogether.

UEFA has postponed next week’s Champions League second round returns between Manchester City and Real Madrid as well as Juventus against Lyon. Two Europa League matches scheduled for today between Spanish and Italian clubs have been postponed because of the health control restrictions and consequent curtailing of flights.

All options will be on the table for UEFA next week. These could include trying to play out the Champions League and Europa League in single matches or playing out, behind closed doors, whatever matches may be possible and offering a financial settlement to clubs unable to fulfil fixtures.

Unfortunate coincidence

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.

One option could be postponing the Euro finals until next year.

Like everything else this would have a knock-on effect on the international calendar because next summer is precisely when FIFA’s newly-expanded Club World Cup is scheduled to be launched in China.

Also, this may not be appropriate for all of the 12 finals host nations.

In any case, as far as Euro 2020 is concerned four slots still remain to be decided by playoffs later this month. Already these ties are in doubt as several of the eight countries involved have either suspended or imposed closed-door orders on their own club competitions.

Players test positive

Ongoing developments over the past 24 hours have seen individual players of Italy’s Juventus and Sampdoria test positive for coronavirus and three players of English Premier League Leicester City enter self-isolation.

Qualifying matches in Asia for the 2022 World Cup have been postponed until some time later this year and the South American confederation CONMEBOL has asked FIFA for clearance to delay its own opening qualifying matchdays.

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. England’s friendlies against Italy and Denmark are still officially taking place but the prospects for both are minimal.

The only certainty for UEFA is that the effects of the health crisis will appear even more bleak by next Tuesday when worried delegates sign in for their conference call.