Coronavirus: Euro 2021 and UEFA's other big decisions - what do they mean?

By Sports Desk March 17, 2020

UEFA convened a conference call featuring its major stakeholders on Tuesday to map out European football's response to the coronavirus crisis.

The governing body's 55 member associations, the European Club Association, European Leagues and the international players' union Fifpro were all represented.

Rescheduling flagship tournaments such as Euro 2020, the Champions League and the Europa League were key matters to address, along with domestic scheduling concerns.

Here, we look at the key decisions taken and what the ramifications might be.


EURO 2020 BECOMES EURO 2021

European club football entered a continent-wide shutdown across its major leagues over the past week, making the completion of 2019-20 competitions on schedule a virtual impossibility.

These circumstances made moving the European Championship an obvious course of action and Euro 2020 has been put back 12 months to 2021, where it will occupy the same June-July timeslot.

The format for the competition remains, with teams and supporters set to travel across 12 host cities throughout Europe – an arrangement at odds with seeking to contain a pandemic - meaning the longer delay is certainly preferable to a mooted November scheduling in this regard.

Interestingly, UEFA intends to stage this month's postponed Euro 2020 qualification play-offs in the international window at the beginning of June this year. The different stages the virus has reached in different countries means all nations involved being safe to play in under three months is far from guaranteed, while there is likely to be stress placed upon club scheduling given Tuesday's other major decision.

 

A COMMITMENT TO COMPLETING 2019-20 SEASON BY JUNE 30

While pushing Euro 2020 back 12 months looks like the common-sense option, UEFA's announcement on club competitions appears fraught with potential difficulties.

The Premier League, LaLiga, Serie A and the Bundelsliga are suspended until the start of April, with further delays expected, while Ligue 1 is on hiatus until further notice.

Even if prompt resumptions are secured, UEFA's ambitious target will come to loom quickly. Further high-profile matches behind closed doors appear likely and necessary.

The motivation of all involved is fairly clear, given a season stretching beyond June 30 is hugely problematic because that is the date when player contracts typically expire. Keeping the 2019-20 season in an indefinite state of limbo would also bring associated financial pressures and uncertainty for many clubs.

 

WOMEN'S EURO, EUROPEAN UNDER-21 CHAMPIONSHIP AND NATIONS LEAGUE TO MOVE

Euro 2020's move 12 months down the line meant it clashed with the Women's Euro 2021 in England.

This would have proved particularly problematic for the women's competition, given it was due to kick-off on July 7 – four days out from the newly scheduled European Championship final at Wembley.

But the tournament will be moved. UEFA has not decided where to in the calendar just yet and there will be similarly unspecified new dates for the European Under-21 Championship in Hungary and Slovenia and the 2021 Nations League Finals.

The 2022 World Cup in Qatar not taking place until November and December of that year could prove handy here.

 

EXPANDED FIFA CLUB WORLD CUP ALSO PUSHED BACK

UEFA thanked FIFA for its understanding in allowing the rescheduling of Euro 2020, meaning a circumstantial detente between Aleksandr Ceferin and the man who preceded him as UEFA chief – FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

One source of friction between the most powerful continental federation and world football's government body has been Infantino's dubious masterplan of an expanded 24-team Club World Cup.

Despite little indication of European support – the ECA greeted the March 2019 unveiling by stating its members' intention to boycott - the tournament was due to launch in China in 2021. But no more. CONMEBOL moving in parallel with UEFA to stage the 2020 Copa America a year later means the nations intended to supply 14 of the clubs to Infantino's jamboree would be in international action.

In a statement, FIFA pledged to seek a new date for the Club World Cup, either later in 2021, 2022 or 2023. This unprecedented situation has brought the cordiality required but expect battle lines to be redrawn down the road.

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