The coronavirus pandemic, which deeply disrupts national competitions and European football, forces UEFA to question the holding of Euro 2020 scheduled in twelve countries from June 12 to July 12, between busy schedules and economic and logistical constraints .
According to an influential French club president, quoted by AFP, the “scenario” of a suspension of European competitions and a postponement of Euro 2020 is now “likely”. Given the significant development of the coronavirus epidemic on the European continent, the European Nations Championship scheduled from June 12 to July 12 may not take place on these dates. The pandemic is already disrupting national and continental competitions, with matches played behind closed doors or simply postponed, like the knockout round of the Champions League between Juventus and Olympique Lyonnais.
UEFA just announced the organization of a major meeting in videoconference on March 17, to discuss the response to the health crisis. In recent days, she continued to ensure that her competition would start as planned. “Do not think about the worst-case scenario,” said its president Aleksander Ceferin. But according to a source within a European broadcaster, who requested anonymity, the governing body works “in a crisis cell” and decisions “could take place in two stages: first concerning the Champions League which constitutes the most urgent matter, and then for the Euro “.
Lack of visibility
The new format with twelve countries does not make things easier. It involves many population flows and a Italy-Turkey opening match in Rome, capital of the European country most affected by coronavirus (the milestone of 1,000 deaths in Italy has been crossed). It also increases economic and logistical constraints. “For the first time, we are in a situation with the hypothesis of seeing several host countries being obliged to apply containment measures or significant traffic restrictions”, poses Jacques Lambert, former president of the company organizer of Euro 2016 in France.
It is especially difficult to predict the state of the epidemic in the host countries this summer. This poses a problem for ticketing. Jacques Lambert wonders: “How to anticipate towards spectators the attitude to have insofar as even UEFA does not know the traffic conditions which will be imposed in three months? This cannot be improvised at last moment, except to decide that all matches will take place behind closed doors “.
Holding meetings in empty stadiums therefore appears to be another scenario. According to Virgile Caillet, director general of Union sport et cycle, which represents companies in the sector, “this is the least worst of the short-term solutions. A postponement means that a broadcaster has nothing left to do. get your teeth into it. ” The concern hovers however in the medium of the diffusers holders of audio-visual rights. “It is difficult to see how it would be tenable,” said a source in a European media. “Many companies will refuse to send their employees there for hospitality. (…) The meaning of the story is the cancellation”, adds Bruno Bianzina, director general of the marketing agency Sport Market.
Save the Euro or the Champions League?
The European body may have to manage an overloaded calendar, with some European leagues currently suspended may push to postpone their meetings in May or June. Without counting on any suspensions of the Champions League and some Europa League, the most lucrative competitions, which several media advertise as imminent. “UEFA is faced with a dilemma: does it endanger its most profitable European competitions like the Champions League, or else it pushes back the Euro and in this case it can drag the competitions up to At the end of June? Coming to save the two seems very complicated to me, “says Virgile Caillet.
Another major uncertainty: will the countries qualified for the Euro be known before the kick-off on June 12? The last four tickets will only be distributed at the end of March, during roadblocks. One of them is already pending, Bosnia having asked UEFA to postpone its match against Northern Ireland, highlighting the fact that most of its internationals come from countries at risk and will have to be placed in solitary confinement. A president of a French club questions himself thus: “What will happen when selections want to summon players confined to their club? Everything immediately becomes very complicated”.