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Italy coach Roberto Mancini has supported postponing the European Championship until 2021

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Euro fate to be decided as virus threat looms

The fate of Euro 2020 hangs in the balance ahead of a meeting of European football’s powerbrokers © AFP/File / JUSTIN TALLIS

PARIS, France, Mar 17 – UEFA is expected to postpone Euro 2020 by up to a year on Tuesday, as European football’s governing body considers its response to the fallout of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

All of Europe’s leading domestic leagues ground to a halt last week with football confronting its biggest issue in modern times, and the fate of UEFA’s Champions League and Europa League competitions must also be determined.

UEFA will hold a video conference with representatives from all 55 member associations as well as from clubs and players bodies. It will then hold an executive committee meeting at 1400 (1300 GMT) at its Swiss headquarters.

The future of the European Championship, due to take place for the first time in a dozen different cities spread across the continent from June 12 to July 12, is up in the air.

The “dark scenarios” that UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin warned against envisaging when he spoke at the organisation’s congress in Amsterdam just two weeks ago now have to be considered.

Europe has become the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, with Italy and Spain on lockdown, France rapidly following suit, and other countries closing borders to halt the spread of the outbreak.

More than 2,100 people have died in Italy, which is supposed to host the opening game of Euro 2020 in Rome.

– Postponed for a year? –

The head of the Italian football federation, Gabriele Gravina, has already proposed that the Euros be postponed, with Italy coach Roberto Mancini calling for it to pushed back 12 months.

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Italy coach Roberto Mancini has supported postponing the European Championship until 2021 © AFP/File / Fabrice COFFRINI

“We would have won the European Championship this summer, we can also win it in 2021,” Mancini told television station Rai Sport.

It is a position that many across the continent are coming round to amid much uncertainty as to when club football can resume.

“UEFA has no choice. They have to postpone the Euros and the Champions League,” one senior figure in the world game told AFP, although finding agreement across the board may not be easy.

German league chief Christian Seifert believes postponing the European Championship is inevitable.

“I firmly count on the fact the tournament will be postponed,” Seifert said. “The probability that we have a perfect Euros this summer is measured by a number close to zero.”

German broadcaster ZDF reported that two possible options are on the table.

One is to push it back to 2021, although that is not as simple as it might appear, as it would need FIFA president Gianni Infantino to agree to halting the inaugural edition of his highly lucrative Club World Cup, due to take place in June and July next year in China with some of Europe’s top club sides involved.

FIFA offered “no comment” on Monday on the matter.

There is also the issue of the women’s European Championship, scheduled to run from July 7 to August 1 next year in England, with the final at Wembley. The London venue is also supposed to hold the semi-finals and final of Euro 2020. UEFA have also planned to stage an Under-21 Euros in Hungary and Slovenia in June next year.

The alternative option for UEFA, according to ZDF, is to maintain a Euro 2020 by playing it later in the year.

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– Financial stakes ‘enormous’ –

That supposes that the crisis will have calmed down by then, and there is also the issue of all the other football that has been suspended.

UEFA has a big decision to make about whether to postpone Euro 2020 when it holds a crisis meeting on Tuesday © AFP/File / Fabrice COFFRINI

UEFA may come to a decision to try to complete the Champions League and Europa League by curtailing the competitions, meaning ties up to the semi-finals could be decided in one-off matches.

Financially, UEFA would undoubtedly prefer postponing their flagship tournaments to cancelling them altogether, or playing matches behind closed doors.

“The financial stakes are enormous,” according to one senior figure in the international game. “We know that FIFA has significant reserves but we don’t know about UEFA or the different leagues.”

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