UEFA meets to decide fate of Euro 2020 amid coronavirus crisis
UEFA is expected to postpone the European Championship by up to a year following a series of crisis meetings on Tuesday, as football's governing body on the continent weighs up its response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
All of Europe's leading domestic leagues ground to a halt last week with football confronting its biggest issue in modern times, and the fate of UEFA's Champions League and Europa League competitions must also be determined.
UEFA was due to hold a video conference with representatives from all 55 member associations after discussions with clubs and players bodies on Tuesday morning. It was then expected to hold an executive committee meeting at 1400 (1300 GMT) from its Swiss headquarters.
The future of Euro 2020, due to take place for the first time in a dozen different cities spread across the continent from June 12 to July 12, is the main issue at stake.
The "dark scenarios" UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin warned against envisaging when he spoke at the organisation's congress in Amsterdam just two weeks ago now have to be considered.
Europe has become the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, with France having joined Italy and Spain on lockdown and European leaders also planning to ban all non-essential travel into the continent.
More than 2,100 people have died in Italy, which is supposed to host the opening game of Euro 2020 in Rome.
- Collision course with FIFA? -
The head of the Italian football federation, Gabriele Gravina, has already proposed the Euros be postponed, with Italy coach Roberto Mancini calling for it to pushed back 12 months.
"We would have won the European Championship this summer, we can also win it in 2021," Mancini told television station Rai Sport.
It is a position many across the continent are coming round to. German league chief Christian Seifert believes postponing the European Championship is inevitable.
"I firmly count on the fact the tournament will be postponed," Seifert said. "The probability that we have a perfect Euros this summer is measured by a number close to zero."
It is understood all possibilities are being considered, although German broadcaster ZDF has reported it boils down to two possible options.
One is to push the Euro back to 2021, although it is not as simple as it might appear, as it would need FIFA president Gianni Infantino to agree to halting the inaugural edition of his highly lucrative Club World Cup, due to take place in June and July next year in China with some of Europe's top club sides involved.
FIFA has so far offered "no comment" on the matter.
There is also the issue of the women's European Championship, scheduled to run from July 7 to August 1 next year in England, with the final at Wembley. The London venue is also supposed to hold the semi-finals and final of Euro 2020. UEFA have also planned to stage an Under-21 Euros in Hungary and Slovenia in June next year.
The alternative option for UEFA, according to ZDF, is to maintain a Euro 2020 by playing it later in the year.
- 'Final Four' proposal -
That supposes the crisis will have calmed down by then, and there is also the issue of all the other football that has been suspended.
The play-offs scheduled for the end of this month to determine the final four qualifying berths for the Euro will, inevitably, have to be kicked down the road.
UEFA may come to a decision to try to complete the Champions League and Europa League by curtailing the competitions, meaning ties up to the semi-finals could be decided in one-off matches.
Reports on Tuesday also indicated both tournaments could conclude with a 'Final Four' meeting in the existing, scheduled host cities -- Istanbul for the Champions League and Gdansk for the Europa League.
The two-legged semi-finals would therefore be dispensed with.
Financially, UEFA would undoubtedly prefer postponing their flagship tournaments to cancelling them altogether, or playing matches behind closed doors, even if it is impossible at this stage to know when club football can resume.
According to the European Leagues association representing almost 1,000 clubs in 29 countries, Russia was the only nation where matches were still going ahead as of late on Monday.
"The financial stakes are enormous," according to one senior figure in the international game. "We know that FIFA has significant reserves but we don't know about UEFA or the different leagues."
© 2020 AFP