PARIS (AFP) – Today marks 100 days to go until the start of Euro 2020, but as preparations are fine-tuned for the first European Championship to be played across the continent, the coronavirus outbreak could pose a potentially serious threat to the tournament itself.
The decision to stage the second 24-team Euros in 12 different cities in 12 different nations, from as far apart as Baku to Dublin and Glasgow to Rome, was certainly an ambitious move.
UEFA say all venues and transport links are ready, that demand for tickets is through the roof, and there are no obvious security worries. Except for the coronavirus outbreak, with its unknown potential consequences, which could cast a shadow over the entire event.
Most matches in Italy’s Serie A were called off at the weekend with the country the hardest hit by the outbreak in Europe, with 52 deaths and more than 2,000 cases as of Monday.
Meanwhile, neighbouring Switzerland – with 24 confirmed cases – on Monday announced the postponement of all games in its top two divisions until the end of March.
“The health of persons is much more important than any football game,” insisted FIFA president Gianni Infantino last weekend.
“I think we all hope that this can be contained, but of course we will take advice, but it’s got to be health first, sport second,” Football Association of Wales chief executive Jonathan Ford told the UK’s Press Association. Wales are due to play Italy in Rome at the Euros.
The coronavirus crisis was raised at an executive committee meeting of European football’s governing body in Amsterdam on Monday, but UEFA is remaining calm over the possible repercussions for Euro 2020.