UEFA makes ‘the biggest sacrifice’ by postponing European Championship

The European Championship has been moved to the summer of 2021 as UEFA made “the biggest sacrifice” to tackle the disruption to the football calendar caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

A meeting convened by European football’s governing body agreed to switch the tournament in order to find a way to break the logjam of fixtures created by the spread of the virus throughout the continent.

The new dates proposed are June 11 to July 11, 2021, and the move appears to have met with the approval of national associations across the continent.

The statement from UEFA on Tuesday afternoon confirmed that the Euro 2020 playoffs due to be played this month would now take place in the June international window, but did not fix new dates for the Champions League and Europa League finals, or confirm whether the Women’s Euro, due to take place in the summer of 2021, would now be moved.

Instead, a working group has been set up to “examine calendar solutions” and decisions on dates for other UEFA competitions will be made in due course.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin admitted the postponement came at “huge cost” to the governing body but that ploughing ahead – potentially behind closed doors – was not something UEFA had wanted to consider.

“There was a real spirit of co-operation, with everyone recognising that they had to sacrifice something in order to achieve the best result,” he said following Tuesday’s meeting.

“It was important that, as the governing body of European football, UEFA led the process and made the biggest sacrifice.

“Moving EURO 2020 comes at a huge cost for UEFA but we will do our best to ensure that the vital funding for grassroots, women’s football and the development of the game in our 55 countries is not affected.

“Football is an uplifting and powerful force in society. The thought of celebrating a pan-European festival of football in empty stadia, with deserted fan zones while the continent sits at home in isolation, is a joyless one and one we could not accept to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the competition.”

It was also confirmed that this summer’s Copa America had been postponed until 2021 so that South American players could finish their club seasons in Europe.

The postponement of the Copa America will allow South American stars based in Europe such as Roberto Firmino to fulfil their club commitments
The postponement of the Copa America will allow South American stars based in Europe such as Roberto Firmino to fulfil their club commitments (Peter Byrne/PA)

Ceferin also hinted that some sort of compromise had been reached with world governing body FIFA, which is due to host the first of its expanded Club World Cup tournaments in China in the summer of 2021.

“I would like to thank FIFA and its president, Gianni Infantino, who has indicated it will do whatever is required to make this new calendar work.

“In the face of this crisis, football has shown its best side with openness, solidarity and tolerance.”

The summer’s other big sporting attraction, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, is still on schedule according to the International Olympic Committee.

Following meetings with international sports federations, the IOC said it remained “fully committed” to the Games, which are due to start on July 24.

“The IOC remains fully committed to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, and with more than four months to go before the Games there is no need for any drastic decisions at this stage; and any speculation at this moment would be counter-productive,” a statement said.

In cricket, England batsman Alex Hales has revealed he is in self-isolation after developing coronavirus symptoms.

The 31-year-old returned home early from the Pakistan Super League on Saturday, and began feeling ill on Sunday.

In a statement released to the PA news agency, Hales said: “I awoke early on Sunday morning having developed a fever and followed the government’s advice of self-isolation, a process I am obviously still following having developed a dry and persistent cough.

An update on my situation, stay safe everyone pic.twitter.com/8mDPOBGmI8

— Alex Hales (@AlexHales1) March 17, 2020

“At this stage it has not been possible to be tested although I am hopeful that might be the case later today so that I can get absolute confirmation of my current health status.”

The Pakistan Super League has subsequently been postponed, on the day the semi-finals were due to take place.

National League football club Barnet announced it had placed all non-playing staff on notice in “emergency measures to preserve the club” amid the pandemic.

The worldwide sporting calendar continued to be decimated by the pandemic with racing, snooker, athletics, boxing, cycling and swimming all called off.

All racing in Britain will be suspended from Wednesday until the end of April,  the British Horseracing Authority has announced.

Runners and riders pass the empty stands at a race meeting at Wetherby on Tuesday
Runners and riders pass the empty stands at a race meeting at Wetherby on Tuesday (Alan Wright/Handout)

Snooker’s Coral Tour Championship has been postponed along with the first three Diamond League athletics meetings of the season.

The British Boxing Board of Control has announced that “all public tournaments” under its jurisdiction have been cancelled, and the position will be reviewed in early April.

British Cycling has suspending all activities until at least April 30, as has Welsh Athletics.

British Swimming has confirmed that the Diving World Series event scheduled for London later this month has been postponed.

The British Swimming Championships and the British Para-Swimming International Meet – both scheduled for April – have been cancelled.

British Eventing has suspended all fixtures with immediate effect, just a fortnight after the scheduled eight-month season began.

The final Hillsborough memorial service, which was due to take place at Anfield on April 15, has also been postponed.

The families of the 96 Liverpool supporters who died 31 years ago had decided to hold a last service after former police match commander David Duckenfield was cleared of gross negligence manslaughter following a retrial in November.

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