Athletes are at risk of having their careers cut short if soon-to-be free agents face a prolonged period of unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic, warned World Players Association executive director Brendan Schwab.

COVID-19 has brought sport to a standstill across the globe, with the 2020 Olympic Games, major European football leagues, the NBA, MLB and NHL postponed.

Euro 2020 and Copa America 2020 have been pushed back to next year amid the fight to combat the spread of the virus, which has claimed more than 21,290 lives.

It remains to be seen when and if the 2019-20 Premier League, LaLiga, Serie A, Bundesliga and Ligue 1 seasons will resume, raising doubts over the futures of football players – whose contracts are due to expire in June.

The likes of Edinson Cavani and Thiago Silva (both Paris Saint-Germain), Willian (Chelsea) and Dries Mertens (Napoli) are all set to become free agents.

As clubs and organisations try to reduce costs amid the economic crisis, Schwab – who works for World Players, which brings together 85,000 players across professional sports through more than 100 player associations in over 60 countries – told Stats Perform: "The challenge is to ensure enough liquidity during the shutdown so that the same content can be delivered to fans, broadcasters and brands but over a longer period.

"Existing contracts and regulations such as contract expiry dates and transfer windows will all need to be reformulated which can only be done though collective decision-making involving governments, sports bodies, broadcasters, stadia operators, player unions and civil society. The impact on the sporting schedule will be long-lasting and may take several years to return to normal.

"Seasons just starting – such as MLB, AFL and NRL – have a longer struggle in many ways. Shortened seasons are likely, but it all depends on the length of the shutdown, liquidity and the window available to complete seasons. Sports which own their own infrastructure will have greater flexibility and will be in a stronger position to design solutions.

"The key is collective decision-making, goodwill and long-term thinking, all of which can be difficult during such uncertainty. Many key sports governing, commercial and player contracts have 'force majeure' clauses which may apply in these circumstances. Certain parties may be able to 'cut and run', but that will only worsen the bleeding and make recovery more difficult. We need to bunker down, show we care about our people, fight the pandemic, exercise restraint, save as many jobs and legitimate commercial interests as we can, and re-emerge with a renewed, sustainable and collectively developed economic model.

"Tuesday was the anniversary of the death of arguably football’s most influential figure, Johan Cruyff. He famously said that there is advantage in every disadvantage. That thinking is needed right now."

Schwab added: "Individual players will be impacted differently. The destiny of free agents will depend much on the state of the leagues once the shutdown has been lifted. There is a risk that players coming off contract will face a prolonged period of unemployment if the shutdown continues, which can be career ending.

"The top players should be OK during this period, but remember they are a fraction of players and athletes who work professionally. It is likely that the economic impact of the shutdown will result in a deflated labour market for some time, which will suppress wages even among the viable leagues. For leagues outside the very top echelon, it may be a battle for survival.

"However, sport's essential role in society will be unchanged and may even be renewed and elevated. It will have a critical role to play as the community reunites after the pandemic and we expect a major resurgence in demand. Sport is therefore an important part of government planning, and it is pleasing to see that progressive governments in Switzerland, Sweden and some other countries have included sport in the stimulus packages they are announcing. They will reap a community dividend for doing so even as they balance the essential interests of the broader society and economy."

"[Next year] an intense year for sport as current seasons will now run well into the northern summer and that will require a readjusted schedule in 2021," the Australian executive continued. "The postponement of the Olympics may allow for existing concerns to be addressed including the health and safety impacts of the extreme heat of July-August in Tokyo. These issues all need to be worked through. We shouldn't assume the Olympics are simply put back 12 months. We are consulting with our affiliates about how to approach the shaping of the 2021 sports calendar."

Coronavirus has largely affected the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions, but Schwab said: "We have been concerned with some of the heath information being conveyed, including that COVID-19 is a disease that mainly affects the elderly and the vulnerable. Athletes, too, are vulnerable, despite being young and fit. The disease attacks the lungs, and athletes themselves have suffered very severe symptoms which may be long-lasting. There have been fatalities among people between 20 and 44 and young people can transmit the virus even if they don't have symptoms.

"Players have also been forced into quarantine when living away from their families. It is necessary that effective support mechanisms are in place to ensure the mental health and social wellbeing of players as well as their physical health. Our player unions play an essential role here."

Eden Hazard believes it would only be fair to judge his time at Real Madrid at the end of next season.

The 29-year-old agreed a move to the Spanish capital last June after seven successful campaigns at Chelsea, during which time he won two Premier Leagues, a pair of Europa League titles and a PFA Players' Player of the Year award.

However, translating that success to his new club has proved challenging for Hazard, who scored only once across 10 LaLiga appearances before suffering an ankle injury last month that was likely to keep him out for the remainder of the season.

Hazard, who was sidelined between November and January with a similar problem, admitted it has hardly been a debut campaign to remember with Los Blancos, though he knows he has time to win the critics around.

"My first season in Madrid has been bad, but it's not all bad, it's a season of adaptation," he explained in an interview with RTBF.

"I'll be judged on my second season. It's a great group of players, I've met a lot of new people. It's been a great experience for me.

"I've still got four years left on my contract and I hope to be in form."

Though he only had the stitches in his ankle removed last week after undergoing surgery in Dallas, Hazard had expected to be available to represent Belgium at Euro 2020.

However, that tournament has been delayed for 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"I'd hoped to be fit [for the Euros] so it's a bit disappointing that they've been postponed," Hazard added.

"I'd planned to play, the operation was a few weeks ago now.

"We'll all be a year older in 2021, which is a shame, but it'll allow me to be in form.

"I think it's probably hard for the fans because they want to watch an international tournament every summer, so it's hard for them.

"But I also think that there are priorities in life that mean it had to be cancelled. Footballers are like everyone else at the end of the day. It'll wait until next year."

Italy coach Roberto Mancini was disappointed Euro 2020 had to be called off but described the recent scenes in his country as "a punch in the face".

UEFA made the decision to postpone the European Championship until 2021, while all other UEFA competitions and matches for clubs and national teams have been put on hold until further notice.

Mancini said he had been talking to players as part of his preparations for Italy's scheduled March friendlies against England and Germany.

But with the coronavirus hitting Italy particularly hard, he said his focus now is on helping those in need, with the death toll in Italy passing 4,800 on Saturday.

"In the past few weeks I called some of my players, especially those who are injured and ones in doubt," Mancini told Gazzetta dello Sport. "I worked on the friendlies with England and Germany and I started setting up Euro 2020.

"I must admit that I felt disappointed when it was announced [that it was cancelled].

"The film of that military convoy that took the coffins away from Bergamo was a punch in the face, the hardest and most striking image.

"No one was ready for this hell. To think that people are dying because there's a lack of beds and respirators.

"I never even thought about leaving Italy, because I feel safe here and our medics are doing heroic work. I want to feel close to those who are in difficulty.

"And I say that as a simple citizen, not as someone who has a symbolic role in Italy."

Mancini said he was heartened by the displays of solidarity among Italian citizens being widely shared on social media, where videos of communities spontaneously bursting into song from their balconies have become popular.

"I like it very much," said the former Manchester City head coach. "It's the most authentic Italy. It represents us.

"It is we who give our best in difficult circumstances, when we hug, help and put all our humanity into play.

"These people, after so much pain and fear, would have deserved the European Championship to get distracted and start again."

UEFA says no decision has been made over the name for the European Championship next year after earlier stating it would remain Euro 2020.

It was announced this week that the tournament has been postponed until 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

If the competition had gone ahead as scheduled, it would have marked the 60th anniversary of the European Championship and it appeared on Friday there would be no rebranding for that reason.

A reply on a frequently asked questions page on UEFA's website read: "We trust that all of our venues will remain the same, ensuring the tournament remains true to its original vision: staging a truly Europe-wide event that befits the EURO's 60th birthday. 

"The tournament will still be known as UEFA EURO 2020."

A tweet from the UEFA account also read: "Although it will provisionally take place from 11 June - 11 July 2021, #EURO2020 will still be known as UEFA EURO 2020."

The governing body later revealed those posts were wide of the mark.

A UEFA tweet said: "With apologies for the earlier error, to be clear no decision has yet been made on the name of the rearranged EURO to be held in 2021. The earlier tweet was sent by mistake."

UEFA has insisted Euro 2020 will not be rebranded despite having been provisionally suspended by 12 months as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

It was announced earlier this year the latest instalment of the tournament will be pushed back to 2021, with the competition set to take place between June 11 and July 11 next year.

Despite having to delay its flagship international event, UEFA still intends to retain the Euro 2020 name.

Holding the Euros this year would have marked the 60th anniversary of the European Championship.

A reply on a frequently asked questions page on UEFA's website read: "We trust that all of our venues will remain the same, ensuring the tournament remains true to its original vision: staging a truly Europe-wide event that befits the EURO's 60th birthday. 

"The tournament will still be known as UEFA EURO 2020."

The decision to postpone the Euros was taken in order to allow UEFA's member nations to complete their respective seasons, most of which have been suspended due to the spread of COVID-19.

UEFA added that is not yet able to say if its major club competition finals will still take place on their original dates and at their scheduled venues.

"It is too early to say. Our aim is to complete all European and domestic club competitions by the end of the current sporting season – 30 June 2020 – if the situation improves," read an answer to another question. 

"However, the health of all people involved in the game must first be guaranteed.

"The working group will assess different scenarios. We must wait for the outcome of its discussions as well as the evolution of the situation before reaching any conclusions."

UEFA was also unable to say how qualification for next year's club competitions may work amid the uncertainty, adding: "It is too early to answer this question and our objective is to ensure that all domestic competitions can be completed."

Gareth Southgate called medical staff fighting the coronavirus pandemic "heroes" as the England boss spoke about the pride he expects to feel when the postponed European Championship finally takes place.

Earlier this week it was confirmed by UEFA that Euro 2020, which had been scheduled to begin on June 12, had been pushed back a year due to the spread of COVID-19 and its chaotic impact on the sporting calendar.

It is hoped the suspension will ensure domestic seasons and continental cup competitions can resume and be completed in the window when the Euros were due to happen.

Southgate, whose team have seen friendlies against Italy and Denmark this month cancelled, has written a letter to England fans telling them not to "spend another moment thinking about the postponement" while paying tribute to those working to combat coronavirus.

"For everyone in our country, the primary focus of the present - and the coming months - is undoubtedly to look after our families, support our communities and work together to come through what it clearly the most extreme test that we've faced collectively in decades," Southgate said.

"On behalf of all the teams and staff, I would like to take this opportunity to send our sympathies to those who have lost loved ones already. Our thoughts are with you and with those who sadly will suffer similarly in the coming period."

He added: "We were due to play next week and to represent you all this summer, but now is clearly not the moment for us to take centre-stage.

"The heroes will be the men and women who continue working tirelessly in our hospitals and medical centres to look after our friends and families. They won't receive the individual acclaim, but we all know their importance is beyond anything we do on the pitch.

"When we play again as an England team, it will be a time when not only our country but the rest of the world as well is on the road to recovery. Hopefully we will be closer to each other than ever, and ready for the beautiful distraction that football can bring.

"To play in a European Championship next summer will still be possible for all of our squad and so we shouldn't spend another moment thinking about the postponement of the competition.

"I feel sure that, when that moment comes, I will never have been prouder to be the leader."

FIFA has set up a working group to look at the potential impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the transfer of players.

With the majority of leagues across the globe suspended due to the proliferation of COVID-19, UEFA decided to postpone Euro 2020 by a year and CONMEBOL pushed back the Copa America until 2021.

The 2019-20 season could consequently continue into the opening of the transfer window, which for most European countries will be in June, and see players required beyond the expiration of their contracts.

Following a conference call on Wednesday, the bureau of the FIFA council announced amendments to its regulations on transfers will be looked into.

The FIFA-Confederations working group will be responsible for "assessing the need for amendments or temporary dispensations to the FIFA regulations on the status and transfer of players to protect contracts for both players and clubs and adjusting player registration periods". It will also look at issues relating to the competition calendar and whether a potential support fund should be established.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino said: "This exceptional situation requires exceptional measures and decisions. This crisis impacts the entire world and that is why solutions need to take into account the interests of all stakeholders around the world.

"We have shown again today a spirit of co-operation, solidarity and unity. These must be our key drivers moving forward and I would like to thank all the confederations' presidents for their positive contributions and efforts.

"FIFA will keep in close contact with all stakeholders to assess and take the necessary steps to deal with the variety of issues we are facing. I count on the support of the whole football community moving forward."

It was also announced the European Championship and Copa America were granted slots from June 11 until July 11 in the 2021 international match calendar, with a new date for the revamped Club World Cup to be selected at a later stage.

In addition, FIFA ratified a $10million donation to the World Health Organization COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

Netherlands head coach Ronald Koeman said his Barcelona clause has been delayed until 2021 after the European Championship was postponed a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Former Barca defender Koeman was in line to take over from Ernesto Valverde, who was sacked and replaced by Quique Setien in January.

Koeman previously revealed his Netherlands contract contains a clause that allows him to depart for Camp Nou following Euro 2020.

With the Euros pushed back 12 months amid the COVID-19 outbreak, Dutchman Koeman addressed his contract.

"The clause in my contract to go to Barcelona is for after the European Championship," Koeman said via Marca.

"No date has been mentioned, so now it's after the European Championship in 2021.

"But I haven't thought about it for a second anyway."

UEFA confirmed the postponement of Euro 2020 on Tuesday, with the competition due to be staged across June and July in 2021.

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

Netherlands were set to be without star Memphis Depay this year due to a knee injury but Koeman said: "It's a lucky break, but it's a shame that the European Championship won't be played now.

"We qualified at a good level, we were in good shape and we wanted to continue in this vein."

FIFA is backing the decisions to move Euro 2020 and the Copa America to next year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

UEFA and CONMEBOL announced on Tuesday that the tournaments will be postponed until 2021 to make it possible for the 2019-20 club seasons to be completed once local suspensions on league football have been lifted.

FIFA will convene a conference call with Council members on Wednesday where president Gianni Infantino will call for the revised Euro and Copa America dates to be accepted.

Members will also discuss plans to reschedule the revised 2021 Club World Cup, which is due to be held from June 17 until July 4 next year.

Infantino is also proposing FIFA contribute funds towards the global fight against COVID-19.

In a statement, he said he will encourage FIFA to ratify a direct $10million contribution to the World Health Organisation Solidarity Response Fund and establish a 'Global Football Assistance Fund' to "help members of the football community affected by this crisis".

FIFA will also consult with football stakeholders over any necessary changes to rules regarding transfers, so as to "protect contracts for both players and clubs".

He added: "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.

"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."

French Football Federation (FFF) president Noel Le Graet has lauded UEFA's "wise and pragmatic" decision to postpone Euro 2020 by 12 months amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Following a video conference including all 55 member associations on Tuesday, UEFA confirmed its decision to suspend the upcoming Euros and set a new start date of June 11, 2021.

The postponement allows extra time for Europe's domestic seasons to conclude – if possible – after almost all leagues were put on hiatus to combat the spread of COVID-19.

In an FFF statement, Le Graet said: "The French Football Federation fully supports UEFA's decision to postpone Euro 2020 to 11 June 2021 and to adapt the formats for European competitions accordingly.

"The international matches planned for March, including the two matches of the French team from March 27 and 31 at the Stade de France, would therefore logically be postponed to June.

"This wise and pragmatic decision by UEFA makes it possible to fully register in the urgency and the priority of collective action to fight against the coronavirus, while allowing to consider ending the national professional and amateur championships which could be prolonged until June.

"All options will be studied in order to be reactive when resumption of activities is possible. The only concern of the FFF is to make the best decisions, by bringing together all the players in football, to best respect sports equity and limit the impact of this crisis.

"The world of football must be united, responsible and exemplary."

French football is suspended until further notice, with the Coupe de la Ligue – which was initially scheduled for April 4 – among the matches postponed.

COVID-19 was declared pandemic last week and has infected almost 189,000 people since its emergence in China late last year.

France has 6,633 confirmed cases of the virus.

UEFA has postponed Euro 2020 until next year due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Norwegian Football Federation.

UEFA hosted a video conference on Tuesday with all 55 member associations and other necessary stakeholders to determine the outlook of the next few months in European football.

Euro 2020 was due to begin in Rome on June 12 before continuing in 11 other cities around Europe, but an early communication from the NFF claims the tournament has been put back to June 11, 2021.

An NFF post on Twitter read: "UEFA has decided that the European Championship is postponed to 2021.

"It will be played from June 11 to July 11 next year. More information to come."

COVID-19 has caused major disruption to sport across the globe, with precious few still taking place as the confirmed number of cases worldwide approaches 188,000.

All of the major European football leagues have been postponed due to the pandemic, with the Premier League, Serie A, Ligue 1, LaLiga and Bundesliga all suspended at least until April.

However, with the infection peak not expected in the United Kingdom until June and cases increasing across the continent, many have suggested an April return for any of those leagues is unrealistic.

The Champions League and Europa League – which, like Euro 2020, are UEFA competitions – have also been put on hold.

The postponement of Euro 2020 buys Europe's domestic competitions a little more time to conclude the 2019-20 campaign, if possible.

Official communication from UEFA regarding the Euros, Champions League and Europa League is expected once Tuesday’s meetings have been concluded.

UEFA has postponed Euro 2020 until next year due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Norwegian Football Federation.

Roberto Mancini said Italy can win the European Championship even if the finals are rescheduled for 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

UEFA is set to hold a critical summit on Tuesday, with talks planned on whether or not the finals can be held as scheduled in June and July, and Italian football federation president Gabriele Gravina has said he will call for the tournament to be postponed.

Italy has been one of the worst-affected countries by the coronavirus and players across all Serie A clubs are training at home in self-isolation.

The Azzurri's scheduled March friendlies against England and Germany have been cancelled, but head coach Mancini said football is not his top priority at the current time, telling Rai Sport: "I don't know how it will end. But there are more important things than Euro 2020, without a doubt.

"If they postpone the tournament, we can win even in a year. The important thing is the health of everyone and that we can all return to the stadium and enjoy ourselves.

"Seeing people die in these last few days is hurting us too much."

Italy won all 10 of their European Championship qualifying matches, which culminated in a 9-1 thrashing of Armenia in November.

Mancini said he has a squad of players in mind for the finals but indicated he is prepared to reassess his plans if the tournament is postponed.

"I had a fairly safe list of players called," he said. "It was ready with only a few doubts to decide at the last minute.

"However, if the tournament is suspended for a year, there will be a few changes.

"We have to wait to Tuesday to understand if UEFA will decide to postpone Euro 2020. The problems we have had in Italy in the last 15 days will now be seen in other countries."

Italian football federation president Gabriele Gravina will call for Euro 2020 to be postponed when he takes part in a meeting with fellow UEFA members on Tuesday.

Europe's biggest leagues and competitions, including UEFA's Champions League and Europa League, are on hold as governments and medical experts attempt to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, UEFA will hold a video conference with delegates from its 55 member nations to discuss how and when football will be able to proceed.

One option which has been mooted is to delay Euro 2020, either until later in the year or to 2021, to allow the domestic seasons to be completed.

Italy has been the worse-hit country in Europe by the virus, with the country on lockdown until at least April 3, and FIGC boss Gravina has confirmed he wants Euro 2020 to be postponed.

"We will try to reach the end of this [Serie A] season because it is fair and correct to have an outcome for the many efforts and sacrifices from our clubs," Gravina told Mediaset on Sunday.

"The hope is that this happens by June 30, without forgetting that in addition to Serie A there are other championships that must be resolved, and we must also include the Champions League and the Europa League. The deadline is June 30, eventually we will see if we have to go beyond."

Regarding European competition, Gravina said: "On Tuesday we will tackle this issue; the primary principle is the protection of health. Italy is currently two weeks ahead, the other [countries] probably do not yet know the exact size of things.

"We'll ask UEFA to postpone the playing of the European Championship."

Juventus lead the way by one point in Serie A, with Lazio in second, and both have 12 Serie A games remaining. Antonio Conte's Inter are nine points adrift of the leaders in third place, with a game in hand.

LaLiga president Javier Tebas is convinced the top-flight season in Spain will get finished, even if it is at the expense of Euro 2020.

Spain is in a state of alarm amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with the government reporting on Sunday that 288 people had died from COVID-19.

With the country on lockdown, LaLiga has been postponed for at least the next two rounds of fixtures.

As the pandemic continues, UEFA's 55 member nations are due to meet on Tuesday to discuss the fate of this season's Champions League and Europa League, along with Euro 2020.

Doubts have been expressed over whether there will be time to complete the domestic seasons in Europe, although if Euro 2020 is postponed that could clear room in the schedule and Tebas is adamant the campaign will be finished.

"I am convinced that we are going to end the season. We are working with other leagues to match dates," said Tebas in an interview with radio station Cadena COPE.

"I have had contacts with Italy, Germany. The approach for now is to see what happens on Tuesday with Euro [2020] and then decide.

"The big clubs in Europe also have a hard time, not just the little ones.

"The news is to see how we finish the championship if there is no Euro because, if not, we are going to have serious problems. We must be in good health, which is the first thing, of course.

"If the competitions are suspended, everything is reviewed and the income is much lower. All team budgets will be compromised if the competition is not over, but I am convinced that it will end."

There is a tense title race ongoing in LaLiga this season, with Barcelona two points ahead of Real Madrid after 27 of 38 scheduled rounds of matches.

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