Updated / Monday, 16 Mar 2020 17:10
Mick McCarthy could find out on Tuesday whether Ireland’s game with Slovakia goes ahead
European football’s fixture calendar is poised for some significant changes on Tuesday, with UEFA holding calls to discuss a way ahead amid the current coronavirus pandemic.
The outbreak of Covid-19 has led to the suspension of domestic competitions across Europe and to this week’s Champions League and Europa League ties being postponed.
We take a look at some possible outcomes on Tuesday, and what the future impact of those decisions might be…
Moving the Euros
The direction of travel does seem to be towards postponing Euro 2020 until the summer of 2021.
A pan-European tournament, with 12 host cities including Dublin, was ambitious at the outset and in the current climate looks almost impossible to achieve.
Pushing back to the summer of 2021 would give UEFA’s member associations the opportunity to finish their domestic seasons in June or July if conditions at the time allow, and therefore make qualification for the 2020-21 Champions League and Europa League more clear-cut.
Euro 2020 play-offs
These are due to take place at the end of March, to decide the final places at the tournament.
The Slovakian FA has formally asked UEFA to postpone their play-off semi-final against the Republic of Ireland on 26 March, and it looks extremely likely that all play-off games will be called off.
If the finals are delayed until the summer of 2021 then these could take place in the autumn of 2020 or even early 2021.
That would create an issue regarding the Nations League though, which was a huge success in its inaugural run in 2018-19 but which may also come under pressure from the need to fit in 2022 World Cup qualifiers during 2021.
The qualifiers for Qatar 2022 were due to be played between March and November next year, with the final play-offs in March 2022.
If Euro 2020 gets moved back to June and July 2021, some of the dates reserved for those qualifiers will disappear, and may require a shortening or cancellation of the forthcoming Nations League.
Slimlining the Champions League and the Europa League
UEFA will be extremely keen to get the 2019-20 competitions finished but travel restrictions across Europe – not to mention a number of competing clubs having players and staff in isolation – means they need more room for manoeuvre.
One option that may be discussed would be to play single-leg ties in the quarter and semi-finals as and when the Champions League and Europa League is able to get up and running again.
Pushing back the Women’s Euros
If the men’s Euros are pushed back to 2021, that then raises a question over what happens to the women’s competition, due to be staged in England in the same summer.
The Republic of Ireland sit top of their qualifying group following last week’s win over Montenegro and are on course to qualify for the finals of a major tournament for the first time.
The Football Association is understood to be fully committed to hosting the event still, but is prepared to be flexible on dates if required to be.
The tournament could move to the summer of 2022, with the men’s World Cup not taking place until November and December of that year.
Club World Cup
FIFA will be watching events unfold on Tuesday with keen interest. It is planning to launch its expanded 24-team Club World Cup in the summer of 2021, in China.
If the Euros are pushed back, then there will be club-versus-country issues to overcome.
Could postponing the Club World Cup until 2022 or 2023 be a decision FIFA is prepared to take, and might China welcome the additional time to prepare given the impact of coronavirus on that country?