The past 48 hours have been awash with Coronavirus-related decisions in the sporting world, and all facets of public life, really. The NBA, NHL, MLS, Major League Baseball, La Liga, the English Premier League, CONCACAF Champions League, Copa Libertadores, NCAA tournament and several other major sports organizations all announced immediate postponements of their leagues.
Italy, it seems, has been the test case for how societies will manage their attempts to curtail the COVID-19 pandemic, at least in terms of large public gatherings. While officials in Italy tried to maintain the status quo with fixtures without fans, that turned out to be an insufficient measure, as the virus still spread, with multiple players testing positive over the past several days. With Serie A serving as an example, many leagues, most notably the NBA and just this morning Premiership, completely bypassed the behind closed doors approach, skipping right ahead to outright postponements of their schedules.
With domestic leagues closing left and right, the eyes of the footballing world turned to UEFA, the administrators of the two biggest international competitions on the continent, events that bring tens of thousands of people from disparate places into one centralized location—fertile breeding ground for any infectious disease.
In the wake of such sweeping measures from their member federations, UEFA decided to press on with Europa and Champions League matches, postponing only those matches featuring Italian or Spanish clubs: Roma vs. Sevilla, Inter vs. Getafe in the Europa League and Juventus vs. Lyon and Madrid vs. Manchester City in the Champions League.
In response to the cascade of leagues, tournaments, and competitions closing around Europe, and indeed the entire world, UEFA decided to hold an emergency meeting yesterday, inviting "various stakeholders to discuss European football's response to the outbreak.”
Earlier today, UEFA did what many have been expecting for several days now—they've postponed the Europa League and Champions League.
Per the official statement:
In the light of developments due to the spread of COVID-19 in Europe and related decisions made by different governments, all UEFA club competitions matches scheduled next week are postponed.
This includes the remaining UEFA Champions League, Round of 16 second leg matches scheduled on 17 and 18 March 2020; all UEFA Europa League, Round of 16 second leg matches scheduled on 19 March 2020; all UEFA Youth League, quarter-final matches scheduled on 17 and 18 March 2020.
Further decisions on when these matches take place will be communicated in due course.
As a consequence of the postponements, the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League quarter-final draws scheduled for 20 March have also been postponed.
UEFA yesterday invited representatives of its 55 member associations, together with the boards of the European Club Association and the European Leagues and a representative of FIFPro, to a videoconference meeting on Tuesday 17 March to discuss European football’s response to the outbreak.
There you have it—No European football for the foreseeable future. The question of what happens to Euro 2020, set to kick-off on June 12th in Rome, is believed to be the subject of that March 17th meeting.
Early speculation holds that UEFA will push the European Championships back a year; Euro 2020 would become Euro 2021. By potentially shifting the Euros, UEFA will enable domestic leagues across the continent to continue their championships through the summer, retaining, to the extent possible, the entirety of those respective seasons. Without this move, the pressure to cut-short campaigns in Italy, Spain, England and elsewhere would have been too great, as the Euros were set to kick-off mere weeks after the normal end to most domestic seasons, to say nothing of the now delayed schedules.
All of this means that UEFA will potentially conduct two European Championships next summer, with the women's tournament taking place in July.
More updates as they become available, but this is just the latest, and not likely the last, major change to sporting leagues in the wake of the pandemic.