Soccer officials in Europe and South America voted Tuesday to postpone major international tournaments scheduled for this summer for one year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
UEFA, the governing body for soccer in Europe, will delay the quadrennial European Championships that was scheduled to kick off in Rome in June until June 2021.
Leaders of UEFA, the European club association, the European leagues and the players’ union — meeting via video conference — also committed to completing all domestic and European club competitions by the end of June “should the situation improve and resuming play be appropriate.”
Most of the world’s major leagues have halted play in an effort to slow the spread of the pandemic. Others are playing in front of limited crowds or in empty stadiums. The Euros were scheduled to be played in a dozen European countries before finishing in London.
New dates for the Champions League and Europa League finals haven’t been confirmed, but June 27 and June 24, respectively, appear to be the targets. The UEFA Nations League and Women’s European Championships, both scheduled to conclude next summer, also will be rescheduled.
“The health of fans, staff and players has to be our number one priority and in that spirit, UEFA tabled a range of options so that competitions can finish this season safely and I am proud of the response of my colleagues across European football,” UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said.
“There was a real spirit of co-operation, with everyone recognizing that they had to sacrifice something in order to achieve the best result. Purpose over profit has been our guiding principle in taking this decision for the good of European football as a whole. In the face of this crisis, football has shown its best side with openness, solidarity and tolerance.”
CONMEBOL, the ruling body for soccer in South America, has moved its regional championship, the 2020 Copa America, ahead a year to enable European-based players the opportunity to finish league campaigns with their club teams. The tournament, to be held in Argentina and Colombia, will be played between June 11-July 11 in 2021, the same dates as the European Championships.
FIFA, which manages the international soccer calendar, will convene a conference call with council members Wednesday to approve the changes.
“The world is facing an unprecedented health challenge and clearly a global and collective response is needed,” said FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who has come out in favor of the delays. “Cooperation, mutual respect and understanding must be the guiding principles for all decision makers to have in mind at this crucial moment in time.”
With the CONCACAF Gold Cup already scheduled for July 2021, the delay of the European and South American tournaments means three major continental championships will be played at the same time.