PARIS • Uefa have made a move towards clearing the decks for the return of club football after yesterday announcing that all international matches that had been pushed back to June have now been postponed until further notice.
“This includes the play-off matches for Euro 2020 and qualifying matches for women’s Euro 2021,” said European football’s governing body in a statement. “All other Uefa competition matches, including the centralised international friendly matches, remain postponed until further notice.”
The decision followed a video call with its 55 federations as part of discussions on adapting the fixture calendar in the face of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The play-off semi-finals and final supposed to decide the last four qualifying berths for the next European Championship, already pushed back by 12 months, were initially postponed last month and pencilled in provisionally for June.
That was “subject to a review of the situation” amid uncertainty over how the pandemic will develop and whether European countries currently locked down will be able to return to some semblance of normality. But with the crisis worsening, those games have now been put on the backburner indefinitely.
Uefa, however, remains determined to finish all domestic and club competitions by June 30. While that looks ambitious, clearing the international fixtures from the same month does buy some more time to complete the Champions League and Europa League as well as European domestic leagues.
Uefa have also suspended all Champions League and Europa League matches “until further notice”.
Carrying the season beyond that date runs the risk of clubs losing their out-of-contract players before matches have been completed as well as expose them to a potential legal wrangle with broadcasters, unless a solution can be found.
The Covid-19 crisis yesterday claimed another sporting victim in this year’s Wimbledon.
No Grand Slam tournament has been scrapped since 1945 but organisers of the grass-court Major, the All England Lawn Tennis Club, revealed that there was no way they could hold the blue-riband event.
“It is with great regret the main board and the committee of management of the championships have decided the championships will be cancelled due to public health concerns linked to the coronavirus epidemic,” the club said in a statement. “The 134th Championships will instead be staged from June 28 to July 11, 2021.”
Unlike the French Open which is played on clay, Wimbledon’s scope for rescheduling its start date was extremely limited. With only two covered courts – Centre Court and Court One – playing tennis on grass would have been extremely challenging in late summer or autumn conditions with a lack of light and problems caused by dew forming on the surface late in the day.
Shortening the format, or playing behind closed doors, would not have gone down well. The men’s ATP Tour and women’s WTA Tour are already suspended until at least June 7, but it looks extremely unlikely any professional tennis will be played throughout the summer.
The decision prompted the ATP and WTA to cancel the entire grasscourt swing, meaning the tennis season will not recommence until July 13 at the earliest.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS