The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) has decided to cancel one of the biggest games in football (soccer) this year, Euro 2020, ditching plans for summer matches that were planned to be played in Azerbaijan and Russia. This year's tournament was slated for June 12 through July 12.
On Tuesday, an emergency meeting was convened via videoconference by UEFA’s president Aleksander Ceferin for the league’s 55 member associations.
"We are at the helm of a sport that vast numbers of people live and breathe that has been laid low by this invisible and fast-moving opponent," Ceferin said according to UEFA. "It is at times like these, that the football community needs to show responsibility, unity, solidarity and altruism."
"The health of fans, staff and players has to be our number one priority and in that spirit, UEFA tabled a range of options so that competitions can finish this season safely and I am proud of the response of my colleagues across European football. There was a real spirit of co-operation, with everyone recognizing that they had to sacrifice something in order to achieve the best result."
The next tournament will be played from June 11-July 11 in 2021.
Ceferin said the suspension of Euro 2020 will help ease pressure on already-strained public services in 12 host countries, including Azerbaijan and Russia, as they deal with what has become a global public health crisis since COVID-19 first appeared in Wuhan, China in December.
Three group games and one quarter-final game of the Euro 2020 championship tournament were scheduled to take place in the 70,000-seat Olympic Stadium in Azerbaijan's capital city of Baku, where Group A matches would have seen Wales, Switzerland and Turkey face off against another. Saint Petersburg stadium was slated to host another three group games and one quarter-final match, where Russia, Belgium and Finland were to go head-to-head in the Euro 2020 tournament.
Baku and St. Petersburg will still play host to the 2021 tournament.
As of Thursday, the novel coronavirus, referred to as COVID-19 infected more than 235,700 worldwide, leading to 9,786 deaths, according to data provided by Johns Hopkins University. WHO has last week identified Europe as the epicenter of the outbreak after the outbreak paralyzed the life in many of the European countries, where immediate measures were taken to contain the spread, including delaying the national football leagues.
Most cases of COVID-19 in Europe is in Italy with around 41,000 confirmed infections and 3,405 deaths.