Euro2020: Kick-off delayed until next year

Swedish and Norwegian officials confirmed the delay as Europe's senior football administrators met online.

    Organisers had been under pressure to postpone the Euro2020 tournament [Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea/Reuters]
    Organisers had been under pressure to postpone the Euro2020 tournament [Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea/Reuters]

    Football's Euro2020 Championship will be postponed for a year, in a widely expected move amid the spread of the coronavirus disease, COVID-19.

    "Postponed until 11/6- 11/7 2021. Will get back to you after the meeting," Swedish FA chairman Karl-Erik Nilsson said in a message to Reuters during a UEFA videoconference call.

    The Norwegian FA also tweeted the news from its official account.

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    UEFA, which is yet to confirm the decision, has been under pressure to push back the tournament to give suspended domestic leagues time to be completed.

    European soccer's governing body was on Tuesday holding a video conference with all 55 of its affiliated national football federations and representatives of clubs, leagues and players. The decision will go before UEFA's Executive Committee to be rubber-stamped later on Tuesday.

    It is the first time in the competition's history that the final stages have been postponed.

    "This is the news we expected from UEFA, said Al Jazeera's Lee Wellings, reporting from outside London.

    "There was no way they could realistically play it this summer, and the delay of exactly a year is the most sensible decision. Of course, it does cause potential problems next summer, with the new FIFA Club World Cup and UEFA Nations League due to take place in June 2021, and the European women's championship in July.

    "And before that is the thorny issue of finishing domestic club seasons. It seems fanciful that much football will be played this European summer, so any agreement on a plan will have to be subject to change in these extraordinary times."

    The decision to put back the 24-team tournament follows football, like numerous other sport, 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 - in England, Spain, Italy, France and Germany - have been 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. 

    Tuesday's decision was telegraphed by UEFA's cancellation of hotel bookings in Copenhagen last week.

    The CPH Hotel told Reuters over the phone that UEFA had booked 80 of its 102 rooms, while The Marienlyst Strandhotel, where the Danish team usually bases itself, told Reuters News Agency in an email that UEFA had cancelled the rooms booked on behalf of the Danish side.

    Copenhagen was due to host three group games, all involving Denmark, and one knockout match in the round of 16.

    The Marienlyst Strandhotel in Helsingor has been the base of the Danish team for many years and is situated on the sound between Denmark and Sweden, some 47km (29 miles) north of Copenhagen.

    Helsingor - or Elsinore as it is sometimes called in English - is the scene of Shakespeare's Hamlet. The sleepy village has become the place that the Danish team goes to avoid distractions, with a training pitch a short walk away.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies