Euro 2020 set to be postponed as Uefa weigh up options

Delay would deny Mick McCarthy the chance to lead Ireland into the tournament

The Tehelné pole stadium in Bratislava was due to stage the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2020 playoff against Slovakia on March 26th. The game now has next to no hope of going ahead. Photograph: Sam Bagnall/AMA/Getty Images

The Tehelné pole stadium in Bratislava was due to stage the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2020 playoff against Slovakia on March 26th. The game now has next to no hope of going ahead. Photograph: Sam Bagnall/AMA/Getty Images

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Uefa are widely believed to be on the verge of postponing Euro 2020 because of the deepening coronavirus crisis. This raises the prospect of Stephen Kenny rather than Mick McCarthy being in charge of the Irish team by the time the tournament comes around in the summer of 2021.

The BBC reported on Thursday that the federation is still considering a couple of other options: either going ahead as originally scheduled but with just 20 teams, or proceeding after completing the line-up by staging the four play-off games immediately beforehand. But there is a belief that it wishes to use the early part of this summer to complete an expected backlog of games from the Champions and Europa leagues.

Any postponement of the European Championships would cause major problems for an awful lot of people, with the FAI potentially high on the list of those adversely affected on both the financial and managerial fronts.

As things stand, McCarthy is due to finish up as manager of the senior team at the end of July, with Kenny due to take over on August 1st. It is actually common for an incumbent to be contracted until the end of a team’s involvement in a tournament, but that appears not to be the case in this somewhat unique situation – another legacy of the John Delaney era.

Sympathy

His successors might well be relieved about that, as specific termination and start dates for the two men should at least make the situation legally straightforward. Notwithstanding the generosity of the severance arrangement McCarthy’s representatives negotiated with Delaney, however, there is still bound to be some sympathy for the 61-year-old, particularly if the play-off game was to be played in June, with him in charge, and Ireland won.

Manchester City’s Champions League fixture at home to Real Madrid, scheduled for Tuesday March 17th, has been postponed, the Premier League club has announced. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA Wire.
Manchester City’s Champions League fixture at home to Real Madrid, scheduled for Tuesday March 17th, has been postponed, the Premier League club has announced. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA Wire.
A number of prominent players – including three at Leicester City – have tested positive for the virus

There is, in any case, next to no hope of it going ahead as planned on March 26th, with the government in Slovakia having declared a state of emergency and prohibited non-residents from entering the country, while the local association has, in common with its counterpart in Bosnia-Herzegovina where Northern Ireland are due to visit, already asked Uefa for the match to be deferred.

The Under-21 qualifiers against Iceland and Luxembourg are set to be rescheduled too over the coming days.

It is possible that an attempt might be made to reach some sort of accommodation in relation to McCarthy, but the prospect of doing so seems remote. In addition to Nations League games this autumn, there are due to have been four rounds of World Cup qualifying games before any rescheduled tournament would take place in the summer of 2021.

Complications

Two of them are pencilled in for early June, one of many added complications for Uefa, which would also have to contend with the intended timing of a newly expanded Fifa-run Club World Cup in China and the Women’s European Championships in England.

The intention is that all of this will be teased out on Tuesday in a video conference organised by Uefa that is to include all of the member associations as well as representatives of the professional leagues and players.

The scale of the problem the European game is facing will probably be even larger by then but, as things stand, leagues across the continent have been placed on hold, a number of prominent players – including three at Leicester City – have tested positive for the virus and a number of next week’s Champions League ties, including the one between Manchester City and Real Madrid, have already been postponed.

For the moment, at least, the Premier League is largely unaffected, although that seems bound to change soon. In the meantime, the Airtricity League has been shut down, part of a nationwide suspension of football activity announced by the FAI in the wake of the much wider Government measures unveiled by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Thursday.

Rescheduled

No games of any sort will take place until March 29th, which means an initial three rounds of Airtricity League games having to be rescheduled at some point later in the year. Work by the association, clubs and players’ representatives has started on addressing the financial issues – quite severe in some cases – that will be raised by the suspension, and managers have had to devise ways of keeping players fit for when the league resumes.

“We’ve got to protect everyone; the revenue that comes in on match-day, the lack of that kills everyone,” said Shamrock Rovers boss Stephen Bradley.

“So if there’s a suspension for three weeks, and the payroll is kept as normal, backed by the governing body and reimbursed, that’s the only way I can see how it’s sustained for every club; not just for one or two. It’s us as a league, as a whole.

“We’ve spoken about player programmes,” he continued, “not to keep them up to optimum fitness but you can keep them ticking over, definitely. But if it drags on, you are in trouble as you are in pre-season mode again. It’s very, very hard to keep players at an optimum level if they can’t leave the house.”

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