KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- UEFA, in an unprecedented move, has postponed until next year the European Championship finals which were due to have been staged across 12 countries in June and July.

The decision followed a video conference of the European football federation’s 55 national associations alongside discussions with stakeholders such as the players union FIFPRO, broadcasters and sponsors. Details of how the rearrangement can be managed will be negotiated with the hosting countries, federations and broadcasters.

Europe – never mind the continent’s football – has been brought to a near-standstill by the rapid sweep of coronavirus which has claimed more than 7,200 victims around the world. Most leagues have been suspended with their schedules incomplete while an increasing number of clubs have reported officials and players as testing positive.

Ceferin: "In the face of this crisis, football has shown its best side with openness, solidarity and tolerance."

All UEFA competitions and matches, including friendlies, for clubs and national teams have been put on hold until further notice.

The Euro 2020 play-offs due to take place later this month, have been re-set, provisionally, the international window at the start of June.

A working group has been set up with the participation of leagues and club representatives to devise ways and means to complete the current club seasons.

‘Invisible opponent’
One knock-on effect of the Euro 2020 finals could be a postponement of the expanded FIFA Club World Cup, scheduled for China in the summer of 2021.
UEFA president Aleksander 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 No1 priority and in that spirit, UEFA tabled a range of options so competitions can finish this season safely.
“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.”

Turning to Euro 2020, Ceferin added: “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.

“Football is an uplifting and powerful force in society.  The thought of celebrating a pan-European festival of football 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.”

Ceferin paid tribute to the co-operate contributions of the European Club Association, the European Leagues. players’ union FIFPro and to “FIFA and its President, Gianni Infantino, who has indicated it will do whatever is required to make this new calendar work.”

Crisis meeting

UEFA had summoned the crisis summit at four days’ notice last Friday.

Previously Ceferin had told UEFA Congress in Amsterdam said that the consequences of the high-speed spread of coronavirus would be dealt with on a “case by case basis.”

However within days those “cases” had cascaded into a floodtide of postponements and closed-door orders affecting not only national domestic leagues but UEFA’s own club competitions plus a halt to Euro 2020 as well as the Copa America.

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.

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 been forced to confront the stark reality that that there is no room for manoeuvre in case of major disruption.