The Champions League, the richest and grandest tournament in club football, and other high-level competitions faced an uncertain future on Thursday as positive tests and growing mistrust about the exhibition the new coronavirus continued to wreak havoc on the world sports calendar.
The governing body of European football has said it will meet next week to determine the fate of this summer’s European Championship, a sprawling tournament in which 24 teams will travel to 12 countries. The Champions League was in danger of being suspended after Real Madrid became the last of the elite European teams to enter quarantine. More than a dozen competitions in Europe and the Americas have already announced that they will temporarily suspend the game.
In Spain, Real Madrid confirmed in a statement Thursday morning that one of its basketball players had tested positive for coronavirus and that as a result all club sports operations were suspended. The basketball team shares a training center with its soccer team, so restrictions have been applied to both teams.
On Wednesday, another contender for the Champions League, the Italian champion Juventus, confirmed that his players were entering solitary confinement after a team member, defender Daniele Rugani, tested positive for the virus. Inter Milan, which lost to Juventus in a match held behind closed doors on Sunday, announced a few minutes later that it was also suspending all sporting activity.
Shortly after Real Madrid announced its quarantine, Spain’s top football league announced that it would postpone the next two days of the match. Italy has already temporarily suspended its season, one of the many leagues and competitions around the world struggling to stay on schedule due to the global pandemic.
Thursday, the best American league, Major League Soccer, announced suspension of the game for 30 days, effective immediately, and leagues in Portugal, Norway, Belgium, Denmark, Scotland and the Netherlands have done the same.
In Europe, the Champions League, which brings together high-level teams like Liverpool, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain each year, is in the middle of its knockout stages.
UEFA, the European football governing body, does not expect Real Madrid and Juventus to complete their Champions League matches next week. Real Madrid were to face Manchester City from England, and Juventus were to meet France Lyon team in the return leg of their eighth finals on Tuesday.
Although it was reported in Spain on Thursday morning that UEFA was about to announce an imminent suspension of the Champions League and its second Europa League competition, no official announcement has been made. Instead, UEFA has announced that it will hold a teleconference with representatives from its 55 member associations on Tuesday, as well as representatives from an association representing the continent’s best clubs and its largest player union, to ” discuss the response of European football to the epidemic. “
“Discussions will cover all national and European competitions, including UEFA Euro 2020,” said UEFA, a reference to the four-year championship scheduled for this summer, which is also threatened by lingering uncertainty.
All options, from suspension to cancellation to late events such as Euros for a year, will be discussed.
The call was delayed until Tuesday due to the immense complexity of finding solutions while honoring existing contracts with various groups, including broadcasters and sponsors. For example, pushing euros back a year to 2021, which is an option, would create a major headache over what to do with sponsorship contracts, most of which expire in 2020.
The organizers of the euro would also be required to extend the contracts of 400 workers for another year and to redesign the staging contracts with the cities and places of reception, then to conclude new agreements with the diffusers.
But they also face a shortage of time to play all their postponed games, crown champions, and determine which clubs will be promoted – or relegated – to new divisions for next season. It is expected that each stakeholder will have to give up something to play the matches, which means that European competitions could be split into one-way matches and some matches could be played on weekends, a window reserved for a long time. to the national game.
A person familiar with organizing a previous edition of the Euros described the postponement as a “nightmare scenario”.
Postponing the tournament would also threaten a clash with the inaugural edition of the FIFA 24 Club Club World Cup.
For the moment, UEFA is consulting the European national leagues to try to build a convincing plan to deal with the effects of the virus, rather than the piecemeal approach adopted to date, in order to end the club season.
Second-level Europa League matches scheduled to take place on Thursday, although two matches involving Italian teams – Inter and Roma – and Spanish opponents were postponed Wednesday after the Spanish government refused to allow Italian clubs to enter in the country.
Victor Mather contributed to the report.