Friday, January 22, 2021

Euros Still in Doubt

EURO 2020 MAY NOT HAPPEN IN 2021

The delayed UEFA European Championship could be hosted by a single country or may not happen at all this summer as Covid-19 continues to grip the world.

Euro 2020

UEFA's plan for a multinational tournament and 24 teams has already been delayed by a year but the rejigged tournament looks increasingly threatened as European nations wilt under the third and worst wave of the pandemic.

Northern Ireland has just extended its national lockdown until the 5th of March, coincidentally UEFA's deadline for deciding on the fate of their showpiece tournament. 

As it stands it is slated to begin on the 11th of June in Rome and end a month later in London, but should other nations follow Ulster's suit and extend their lockdowns into the Spring, the prospect of Euro 2020  happening this summer grows smaller.

And yet, domestic leagues plow on and the Champions League and Europa League were concluded last year, behind closed doors of course. 

The multi-country hosting was the "romantic" brainchild of former UEFA President Michel Platini in 2012, expanding the number of finalists to 24 to boot, but the French legend was banned from football three years later for corruption. Nine years since the hosting decision, UEFA is still having to live with the disgraced Platini's vision, or monster.

Michel Platini

Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has told German newspapers that UEFA boss Aleksander Ceferin is currently mulling over whether to award the whole tournament to a single host nation instead of the 12 planned.

Ceferin said UEFA were assessing the options of playing in nine or ten countries as well as just one as well as in stadia a third or a half-full.

England, as the major host with seven matches including both semis and the final at Wembley, may be in pole position to host the whole show but other nearby venues would be required too as the finals comprise 51 games in total. Ten were used in France for the 24-team Euro 2016

Glasgow's Hampden Park is due to host three group matches, while Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, which narrowly missed the cut, could be brought back into the fold too.

That said, Great Britain is statistically the least safe place in Europe right now to hold the finals as it boasts the continent's highest death and infection rates.

If the worst happens and the Euros cannot go ahead in June they could be played in summer 2022, two years late, but with winter 2022 taken up by the Qatar World Cup, footballers would have a packed calendar. The fact the World Cup is not being played in summer however does leave that window uniquely open.

This week, the Tokyo Olympics, like the Euros delayed since last year, has had to deny press rumours their tournament is on the brink of cancellation or postponement. 

The Olympics are slated to start two weeks after the Euros finish but a Japanese minister admitted it was touch and go and the head of World Athletics Sebastian Coe has said the games might go ahead but behind closed doors. 

In his New Year's message, Ceferin was ever the politician: "I am 99.9% sure we will have the European Championship in all twelve cities as planned," he said.

Today those words seem extremely doubtful.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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