LONDON: The Euro 2020 Championship, trumpeted as a continent-wide feast of football from Dublin to Baku to mark Uefa’s 60th anniversary, was postponed for a year on Tuesday as the coronavirus pandemic claimed its biggest sporting casualty yet.
The fate of the 24-nation, month-long showpiece due to start in June had hung in the balance ever since Europe’s domestic leagues began shutting down in the wake of the sweeping health crisis, which has killed around 7,000 people worldwide.
Uefa eventually relayed the news after an emergency video conference with all 55 of its affiliated national federations and representatives from clubs and leagues.
“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,” Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin said in a statement confirming what the Norwegian and Swedish FAs had already leaked earlier in the day.
“It is at times like these, that the football community needs to show responsibility, unity, solidarity and altruism.”
The decision to put back the 24-team tournament follows football, like numerous other sports, being brought to a virtual standstill by the coronavirus outbreak.
The virus has infected almost 180,000 people and killed more than 7,000 worldwide, with the epicentre now in Europe as infection rates slow down in China where the outbreak began.
All five of Europe’s top domestic leagues – England, Spain, Italy, France and Germany – are suspended, along with the Champions League, Europa League and World Cup qualifiers.
Leagues have urged Uefa to prioritise completing domestic competitions, reflecting a concern that clubs throughout Europe will lose significant ticket and associated match-day revenue by not completing the season while still having to pay their players’ salaries.
Cancelled seasons would also risk significant compensation claims from rights-holding TV broadcasters.
The European championship is usually held in one or two host nations, but was spread around the continent this time in what organisers said was a romantic one-off event.
The host cities are Amsterdam, Baku, Bilbao, Bucharest, Budapest, Copenhagen, Dublin, Glasgow, London, Munich, Rome and St Petersburg.