The fate of Euro 2020 was decided following a meeting of European football's powerbrokers. — AFP/VNA Photo
LAUSANNE — The European Championship, due to be played in June and July this year, has been postponed until 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic, European football's governing body UEFA said on Tuesday.
UEFA announced that the new proposed dates for the tournament were June 11 to July 11 next year, as Euro 2020 becomes Euro 2021.
It said the postponement "will help all domestic competitions, currently on hold due to the COVID-19 emergency, to be completed" as it made a "commitment" to finishing club seasons by June 30.
The announcement came after UEFA held crisis talks with national associations as well as clubs and players bodies via videoconference, as the continent fights to deal with the health crisis.
"The health of all those involved in the game is the priority, as well as to avoid placing any unnecessary pressure on national public services involved in staging matches," UEFA said in a statement.
Europe's domestic leagues have ground to a halt over the last week as football confronts its biggest issue in modern times.
The continent has become the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, with France on Tuesday joining Italy and Spain in applying strict lockdown measures and leaders planning to ban all non-essential travel into Europe.
More than 2,500 people have died in Italy, which was supposed to host the opening game of Euro 2020 in Rome.
The UEFA Champions League and Europa League competitions for clubs have been suspended, with both still in the last-16 stage, but postponing the European Championship means they, along with national leagues, will have the chance to be completed, assuming travel restrictions are lifted in time.
'Full support' for changes
UEFA has set up a working group involving leagues and clubs which will try to come up with a new match calendar to allow for the season to be completed.
Twenty of the 24 nations set to take part in the Euro have already qualified, but play-offs to determine the final four participants, due to be played this month, have been postponed.
UEFA said those matches, and other scheduled friendlies, would now be played in June "subject to a review of the situation."
South America's equivalent of the Euro, the Copa America, also scheduled for this June and July, has also been postponed by a year, ensuring European-based players will be free to finish the season with a new match calendar to allow for the season to be completed.
The moves have been welcomed by national associations in countries currently battling the pandemic.
"People's health and well-being has to be the primary concern for us all, so we fully support UEFA's decision to postpone Euro 2020," said the English FA's CEO, Mark Bullingham.
French Football Federation (FFF) president Noel Le Graet gave the postponement his "full support", calling it a "wise and pragmatic decision". — AFP