European football’s fixture calendar is poised for some significant changes on Tuesday, with the continent’s governing body UEFA holding calls to discuss a way ahead amid the current coronavirus pandemic.
The outbreak of Covid-19 has led to the suspension of domestic competitions across Europe and to this week’s Champions League and Europa League ties being postponed.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some possible outcomes on Tuesday, and what the future impact of those decisions might be.
In the light of ongoing developments in the spread of Covid-19, UEFA has invited various stakeholders to discuss European footballâs response to the outbreak.— UEFA (@UEFA) March 12, 2020
Discussions will include all domestic and European competitions, including UEFA EURO 2020.
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The direction of travel does seem to be towards postponing Euro 2020 until the summer of 2021.
A pan-European tournament, with 12 host cities, was ambitious at the outset and in the current climate looks almost impossible to achieve.
Pushing back to the summer of 2021 would give UEFA’s member associations the opportunity to finish their domestic seasons in June or July if conditions at the time allow, and therefore make qualification for the 2020-21 Champions League and Europa League more clear-cut.
These are due to take place at the end of March, to decide the final places at the tournament. The ties look extremely likely to be postponed, and if the finals are delayed until the summer of 2021 then these could take place in the autumn of 2020 or even early 2021.
That would create an issue regarding the Nations League though, which was a huge success in its inaugural run in 2018-19 but which may also come under pressure from the need to fit in 2022 World Cup qualifiers during 2021. The qualifiers for Qatar 2022 were due to be played between March and November next year, with the final play-offs in March 2022. If Euro 2020 gets moved back to June and July 2021, some of the dates reserved for those qualifiers will disappear, and may require a shortening or cancellation of the forthcoming Nations League.
In the light of developments due to the spread of COVID-19 in Europe and related decisions made by different governments, all UEFA club competitions matches scheduled next week are postponed. #UCL and #UEL quarter-final draws have also been postponed.— UEFA (@UEFA) March 13, 2020
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UEFA will be extremely keen to get the 2019-20 competitions finished, but travel restrictions across Europe – not to mention a number of competing clubs having players and staff in isolation – means they need more room for manoeuvre.
One option that may be discussed would be to play single-leg ties in the quarter and semi-finals as and when the Champions League and Europa League is able to get up and running again.
If the men’s Euros are pushed back to 2021, that then raises a question over what happens to the women’s competition, due to be staged in England in the same summer.
The Football Association is understood to be fully committed to hosting the event still, but is prepared to be flexible on dates if required to be.
The tournament could move to the summer of 2022, with the men’s World Cup not taking place until November and December of that year.
FIFA will be watching events unfold on Tuesday with keen interest. It is planning to launch its expanded 24-team Club World Cup in the summer of 2021, in China. If the Euros are pushed back, then there will be club-versus-country issues to overcome.
Could postponing the Club World Cup until 2022 or 2023 be a decision FIFA is prepared to take, and might China welcome the additional time to prepare given the impact of coronavirus on that country?