The European Championship has been postponed until 2021, tournament organisers decided on Tuesday.
Also, the organisers of the Copa América, South America’s continental championship, which was scheduled to run concurrently with the Euros, announced that it would also be postponed by a year.
The move by the governing body for soccer in Europe, UEFA, will clear the month of summer dates blocked out for the tournament, known as Euro 2020, and could allow national leagues that have been suspended because of the Coronavirus outbreak to complete their seasons.
A working group has been set up with the participation of leagues and club representatives to examine calendar solutions that would allow for the completion of the current season.
All UEFA competitions and matches (including friendlies) for clubs and national teams for both men and women have been put on hold until further notice.
“We are at the helm of a sport that vast numbers of people live and breathe that has been laid low by this invisible and fast-moving opponent,” UEFA’s president, Aleksandr Ceferin, said.
“It is at times like these, that the football community needs to show responsibility, unity, solidarity and altruism.”
Officials from Conmebol, the South American confederation that organises the Copa América, said they had made the decision to delay their championship to try to avoid the spread of the coronavirus, which is already present in several of its member countries.
“It has not been easy to make this decision,” Conmebol said in a statement, “but we must safeguard at all times the health of our athletes and of all the agents who are part of the great family of South American football.”
The decision to delay the Euros and all other matches in Europe came after a series of video conferences involving leaders from UEFA and representatives of clubs, leagues and the global players’ union.
With so much disruption, including club seasons that have been suspended midyear, officials appear to have concluded that priority should be given to those domestic competitions and not to a quadrennial tournament that had not yet begun — even one as important as the Euros.
Moving the European Championship back a year will have ripple effects on the international soccer calendar.
The expanded Club World Cup, organised by the global governing body, FIFA, and scheduled for the summer of 2021, now looks unlikely to be played as planned.
Ceferin, UEFA’s president, had led a conference call on Tuesday from his home in Slovenia, which included leaders of trade bodies for the top leagues and the clubs, as well as representatives from the global players’ union, FIFPro.
That was followed by a second call with officials from Europe’s 55 national federations — many of which are heavily reliant on the money UEFA generates from the quadrennial European Championship and events like the Champions League, which is played every season.
The decision to postpone the Euros was finally decided through an exchange of emails between members of UEFA’s executive committee.
During the meeting it was decided to set up two separate working groups. One will deal with the complex calendar modifications required, and a second will discuss how to handle the inevitable financial consequences of the postponement.
Canceling the Euros — an event that UEFA had expected to generate more than $2.5 billion and one for which organizers had already received about 30 million ticket requests — is a complicated matter.
The tournament was to be played in multiple venues, from Azerbaijan to Ireland,, with the semifinals and final at Wembley Stadium in London.
That meant agreeing to contracts with several different regional and national governments, and dedicating about 400 UEFA staff members to the event.
Before Tuesday’s decision, UEFA officials had combed through various contracts and spoke with other main stakeholders, including broadcast partners, to make sure that postponement would not expose the organization in an unexpected way. Still, the decision is likely to cost the governing body millions in lost revenue.