Just two weeks ago, it was business as usual across the world of sport. Since then, the escalation of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak has changed everything. While UEFA insisted at the start of March, EURO 2020 would be held this summer as scheduled, the decision has now been made to defer the competition until next year.
Football across Europe has ground to a halt as individual league organisations have suspended action until early April at the earliest. However, it is widely predicted that the suspension of play will continue for longer and UEFA has been considering its options regarding EURO 2020.
Postponement until a later date seemed the most obvious scenario and the second biggest international football tournament has now been pushed back to the summer of 2021. It raises questions for Ireland’s playoff against Slovakia and when it might take place. For those fans who in Ireland enjoy betting, at the time of writing, bookmakers make Slovakia slight favourites due to home advantage.Embed from Getty Images
But there are two reasons why the tournament has been pushed back to a later date.
To Make Room for European leagues
All of Europe’s major football leagues have closed down to curb the spread of COVID-19. England’s Premier League, Spain’s La Liga, France’s Ligue 1, Germany’s Bundesliga, Italy’s Serie A and numerous other are now suspended until the first week of April.
Taking three weeks out of the calendar at this stage of the season is hugely disruptive. Leagues are into their last 10 games of the campaign, while European games are happening frequently. Simply put, if the season resumes in early April, some room will need to be made to recover those three weeks by extending the season.
That means the 2019/2020 European club season would extend deep into June, which is when EURO 2020 is due to be held (12 June – 12 July). There would be no time to hold the tournament later in the summer as players would need time to rest in July before the club season kicks off again in August.
While it has been argued the 2020/2021 club season could start later, it is more viable that the EURO 2020 tournament moves to make room.
COVID-19 Has not Reached a Peak
There’s one problem with a possible season extension into June. Coronavirus is almost certainly not at its peak in Europe. As the pandemic continues to spread, the likelihood of football returning in early April is looking less likely by the day.
Leagues across Europe bought themselves some valuable time to assess the situation by suspending for the remainder of March, but an April return is by no means definitive. In fact, most insiders within the leagues admit we are at a scenario where COVID-19 peaks in May and June. If this happens, there is a danger the entire 2019/2020 club season would be written off completely.
That would be an unprecedented move that would result in plenty of debate about league champions, as well as relegated and promoted clubs.
When will EURO 2020 take place?
EURO 2020 has now been postponed until the summer of 2021 which also raises questions about a clash with women’s EURO 2021. Right now, European football bosses are confident they can accommodate both tournaments.
Again, the situation surrounding COVID-19 is fluid and no answers are definitive. While sport is undoubtedly a trivial matter in the face of a public health crisis, for the sake of normality, the focus now for sporting organisations is how they manage the outbreak and ensure their competitions are eventually completed.