Coronavirus: crisis meeting at UEFA, Euro football threatened

Reuters

While all the major European championships have been suspended and entire teams have been placed in quarantine, the fate of the Champions League and the Europa League, suspended at the stage of the round of 16, must also fuel the debate.

And the hypothesis of a postponement of the Euro, a first in 60 years of existence and fifteen editions disputed to date, is no longer a taboo.

On Friday, the European confederation "invited the representatives of the 55 member associations (...) to meetings by videoconference to discuss the response of European football to the epidemic". The discussions "will cover all national and European competitions as well as Euro-2020", said UEFA. 

A first meeting is scheduled for Tuesday morning at 10:00 am (09:00 GMT) between the UEFA headquarters and the representatives of the clubs, leagues and players. A second will follow at 1:00 p.m. (12:00 p.m. GMT) with the 55 member federations before a meeting of the Executive Committee of the body at 2:00 p.m. (1:00 p.m. GMT).

The situation is all the more complicated since, a great novelty, this continental competition is organized in twelve countries, forcing teams and supporters to cross the borders.

- UEFA "has no choice" - 

In a European context where containment measures and border closings are increasing, "UEFA has no choice: we must postpone both the Euro and the Champions League", judges a world football executive .

"We have to get everyone together when the crisis is over to reschedule everything. We will have to completely redo the international calendar once the crisis is over," he added.

Several voices have already expressed themselves in this direction. 

Italy coach Roberto Mancini said on Sunday that he had no objection to the postponement of the European Nations Championship to 2021. The President of the Italian Federation (FIGC), Gabriele Gravina, for his part said that he would "propose to postpone the organization of the Euro".

If the health situation and the increasingly drastic measures taken over the days across the continent do not encourage optimism, Noël Le Graët, boss of the French Federation (FFF) explained on Sunday, however, that unanimity does not did not reign within the football family.

"There are people who want to play, others who do not want it. Half (of the federations) want to play, the other half not", he assured on TF1. "There will be a debate and Tuesday at the end of the day, the position of UEFA will be known both for the Champions League, the Europa League, and the European competition (the Euro, note)," he added.

Referring to the friendly matches of the Blues at the end of March, against Ukraine and Finland, "it is likely that these two matches will not be played", added Mr. Le Graët, believing "likely that all of the European friendly matches will be postponed "following Tuesday's meeting.

Regarding the Euro, the option of in camera seems hardly conceivable. And it seems logical that UEFA favors a postponement to a cancellation of the competition, an important source of television rights.

Euro-2016, for the French market alone, had generated a total of 110 million euros in TV rights paid by the beIN SPORTS channels, TF1 and M6, according to figures reported by the press.

- "Huge" financial stakes -

"The financial stakes are enormous, confirms a framework of international football. We know that Fifa has significant reserves but we do not know for UEFA nor for the Leagues."

But if the option of postponement is preferred, the already overloaded international calendar offers very little latitude.

The proposal for a Euro rescheduled next winter "risks encountering opposition from the Leagues who have already agreed to suspend their championship for the 2022 World Cup contested in November-December in Qatar", explains another good connoisseur of the world football. 

As for a Euro carried over to the summer of 2021, it would be telescoped with the Club World Cup organized in China by Fifa, which expects significant revenue.

Asked Monday about this possibility and the Tuesday meeting, Fifa made "no comments".

As for the supporters, who may also have to suffer the effects of a postponement, they want a quick decision.

"It is wiser to announce the postponement now than to do it in two months," said AFP Fabien Bonnel, spokesperson for the "Irrésistibles Français", the main group of supporters of the Blues. "There, at least, we will know quickly, it allows everyone to make arrangements."


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