Will Euro 2020 be postponed?

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UEFA will host a meeting of the 55 member associations on Tuesday, with the future of Euro 2020 among the topics of conversation as the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc in the sporting world.

In a statement, the European governing body 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 invited representatives of its 55 member associations, together with the boards of the European Club Association and the European Leagues and a representative of 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.Further communication will be made following those meetings.

A decision on a potential postponement is expected after Tuesday’s meeting.

Should it be postponed?

Of all the summer’s sporting events under threat in Europe, Euro 2020 would seem to be the most at risk in the face of covid-19. The tournament is designed to promote travel right across the continent, with 12 cities in 12 different countries hosting matches across the month. That format not only requires the travel of teams, but would also see media, production teams and staff needed to move across Europe. Such a format is not well-suited to the current coronavirus situation.

While one option could be playing the tournament behind closed doors, removing the movement of supporters from the equation, that solution would remove one of the major benefits of hosting matches from the 12 host cities, leading to serious financial implications for all the host football associations.

As such a postponement appears inevitable, even if a decision is delayed beyond Tuesday’s meeting.

But when could the tournament be moved to?

Staff disinfect the Turk Telecom Arena in Istanbul

Image credit: Getty Images

UEFA could cancel the tournament altogether, but with host nations already set and plans firmly in place it would make more sense to reschedule.

It would appear that there are two main options available, to play the tournament in December or to move it to the summer of 2021. Let’s take a look at those options in more detail…

The December alternative

One possible rescheduling option that has been mooted over recent days is to move Euro 2020 to December.

This has a number of potential benefits, including:

  • Freeing up July and August of 2020 for domestic leagues to conclude, virus situation permitting
  • Aligning with the usual winter breaks of domestic leagues
  • Replicating the season interruption of the Qatar World Cup in 2022, making rescheduling of postponed domestic fixtures and delayed league starts more straightforward across the two-year period

However, this option would also provide an added complication midway through what is already likely to be a highly disrupted domestic calendar for many of UEFA’s member nations. As such, it is hard to see this option being reached as the preferred option.

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The 2021 alternative

It is being reported that the most likely rescheduling option would be to move the whole tournament back a year.

This would allow domestic leagues space to find a way to both conclude their current seasons and also give them time to schedule in next season.

It would also see host cities retain the likely benefits of hosting the tournament, by potentially coming at a time when international travel is back on the agenda for supporters.

Implications of moving to 2021

However, moving to 2021 isn’t without its complications.

Firstly, domestic leagues will overrun in 2020, which will have a knock-on effect to the 2020/21 season calendars. How to finish these leagues in time to fit in a European national team tournament in the summer of 2021 will need a great amount of creative scheduling.

Also, June 2021 is currently the scheduled date for the Nations League Finals. Such a clash isn’t ideal, but it is possible that the Nations League week could still be hosted in the same time-frame as a rescheduled Euros, acting in place of warm-up matches for the national teams involved. Or the Nations League Finals could themselves be bumped to a later international window.

The UEFA logo

Image credit: Eurosport

But UEFA’s main concern will be moving the men’s Euros into direct competition with the UEFA Women's Euros, which are scheduled to run from July 7 to August 1 in England in 2021. Seven matches at the men’s tournament are to be held at Wembley, while the women’s final is also to be held at the English national stadium. While logistically it would be possible to hold the tournaments simultaneously or with overlap, there would be major concerns that doing so would stifle coverage and attention of the women’s Euros at a time when the game is expanding at an unprecedented rate.

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