Euro 2020 postponed to next year
Copa America also pushed to 2021, but IOC and Japan press ahead with Tokyo Olympics
The European Championship, or Euro 2020, and the Copa America have become the latest casualties of the coronavirus pandemic, with both football tournaments postponed to next year.
Euro 2020, due to be played this June and July, will now become Euro 2021 with the new proposed dates of June 11 to July 11 next year, European football's governing body Uefa said yesterday.
It said the postponement would "help all domestic competitions, currently on hold due to the Covid-19 emergency, to be completed".
The announcement comes after Uefa held crisis talks with its national associations, clubs and player bodies via video conference, AFP reported.
"The health of all those involved in the game is the priority, as well as to avoid placing any unnecessary pressure on national public services involved in staging matches," Uefa said in a statement.
Most of Europe's domestic leagues have ground to a halt over the last week as football confronts its biggest issue in modern times.
Europe has become the epicentre of the pandemic, with France yesterday joining Italy and Spain in applying strict lockdown measures.
More than 2,100 people have died in Italy, which was supposed to host the opening game of Euro 2020 in Rome.
The tournament was due to be held across 12 countries, including England, Spain, Germany, Denmark and Russia.
DESERTED FAN ZONES
Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin said: "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."
The Uefa Champions League and Europa League competitions for clubs have been suspended, with both still in the last-16 stage, but postponing Euro 2020 means they, along with national leagues, will have the chance to be completed, assuming travel restrictions are lifted in time.
Uefa has set up a working group involving leagues and clubs to try to come up with a new match calendar to allow for the season to be completed.
Twenty of the 24 nations set to take part in the Euros have qualified, but play-offs to determine the final four participants, due to be played this month, have been postponed.
Uefa said these matches, and other scheduled friendlies, will now be played in June "subject to a review of the situation".
The Copa America, South America's equivalent of the Euros, also scheduled for this June and July, has also been postponed by a year, ensuring European-based players will be free to finish the season with their clubs.
The move was welcomed by national associations in countries battling the pandemic.
"People's health and well-being has to be the primary concern for us all, so we fully support Uefa's decision to postpone Euro 2020," said England Football Association CEO Mark Bullingham.
Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Japan are pressing ahead with the Tokyo Olympics, due to be staged from July 24 toAug 9.
The IOC said yesterday that it "remains fully committed to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, and with more than four months to go before the Games there is no need for any drastic decisions at this stage".
"Any speculation at this moment would be counter-productive.
"The IOC encourages all athletes to continue to prepare for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 as best they can," it said less than an hour after Euro 2020 was postponed.
Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also said that Group of Seven leaders had agreed to support a "complete" Olympics.