Mark Temnycky –
On 17 March, UEFA’s Executive Committee met with the presidents and general secretaries of the 55 national associations to discuss the COVID-19 emergency and moving Euro 2020 to the summer of 2021. Known as the coronavirus, the pandemic forced various sports leagues to suspend all play in an effort to minimalize the spread of the illness. The global emergency has caused panic and confusion, as this is an unprecedented period in modern history.
Throughout the world, various countries have closed all nonessential commercial locations, such as retail stores, bars, and restaurants. Government officials recommended citizens to self-quarantine for the next few weeks, and no one is certain how long this isolation period will last.
In terms of football, various European countries suspended their leagues due to the coronavirus outbreak. Now, as the citizens of the world wait for the verdict determined by their governments, football players, pundits and fans will also await the decisions made by UEFA’s governing body.
UEFA Euro 2020
Following the discussions held by the UEFA working group, the body announced the UEFA 2020 European Championships would be postponed. Initially scheduled from 12 June to 12 July, the competition was moved to 11 June to 11 July 2021. The tournament was delayed by a year to allow domestic leagues to complete their respective seasons by the summer of 2020. The decision was also made to “avoid placing unnecessary pressure on national public services.”
To comply with this decision, the UEFA Euro 2020 play-offs were suspended in March 2020, and the play-offs were flexed to the June 2020 international break. International friendlies will cease during the March 2020 break.
Russia, Ukraine, Croatia, Czech Republic and Poland, teams regularly covered by the Futbolgrad Network, have qualified for the European Championships. Meanwhile, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovakia, Serbia, Georgia, Belarus, and Kosovo remain in contention and will compete in their respective Euro 2020 play-offs groups during June 2020 international break.
European Domestic Leagues 2019/20
As for the domestic leagues, UEFA announced it is committed to seeing the completion of the European domestic leagues and club competitions by the summer of 2020. To account for the large number of matches that will have to be played, the board has proposed that domestic leagues host their fixtures throughout the week while club competitions, such as the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League, could host their matches over the weekend.
The possibility of shortening these competitions, such as reducing the Champions League and Europa League quarter-finals and semi-finals to one match rather than the traditional two-legged affair, was not discussed. It is possible, however, that the domestic European leagues may be condensed to account for the completion of these club competitions. Finally, the qualification phase for the 2020/21 Champions League and Europa League will commence following the conclusion of the 2019/20 season on 30 June. Decisions regarding the European domestic leagues and these club competitions will be assessed during the month of April and will be adjusted accordingly.
Future International Fixtures
Finally, the postponement of the European Championships and the European domestic leagues means all future international fixtures were effected. First, the 2020/21 UEFA Nations League Finals, the UEFA U21 European Championships and the UEFA Women’s European Championships will all be postponed.
Moreover, qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup was effected, as some of the matches will shift. UEFA qualification fixtures in June 2021 were postponed to account for the changed dates for the 2020 European Championships. The dates for these rescheduled European qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup will be announced at later date.
UEFA’s Executive Committee will meet over the coming weeks to further discuss the future of the European Championships, the conclusion of the 2019/20 domestic leagues and future international fixtures and tournaments.
Difficult Times Ahead
Overall, the spread of the coronavirus has caused much panic and confusion throughout the world. Various sports leagues have been canceled, and governments are requesting citizens to stay at home. To add to this uncertainty, no one knows how long the pandemic will last.
Nonetheless, everyone must remain calm and safe. Through the continued cooperation between the citizens and authorities, and with the guidance of medical professionals, the world will overcome this global emergency. Everyone must do their part, and humanity will persevere.
Mark Temnycky is an AIPS accredited journalist who covers the Ukrainian men’s national team and Ukrainian clubs competing in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League for the Futbolgrad Network. Follow him @MTemnycky