"The move will help all domestic competitions, currently on hold due to the COVID-19 emergency, to be completed," UEFA said in a statement. (Photo Credit: File)
The novel coronavirus, which has claimed more than 7,000 lives globally so far, has forced to the UEFA to postpone the European Championship (EURO 2020) and the Copa America until 2021. The European Championship was due to take place across the continent in June and July this year. The decision was taken after crisis meetings on Tuesday, European football's governing body announced.
The move comes with global sport having largely ground to a halt due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic which has led to lockdowns in several countries and border closures.
"The move will help all domestic competitions, currently on hold due to the COVID-19 emergency, to be completed," UEFA said in a statement.
The UEFA Champions League and Europa League competitions for clubs have also been suspended, with both still in the last-16 stage, but postponing the European Championship for national sides means they, along with national leagues, will have the chance to be completed, assuming travel restrictions are lifted in time.
Europe has become the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, with France on Tuesday having joined Italy and Spain in applying strict lockdown measures and European leaders also planning to ban all non-essential travel into the continent.
More than 2,100 people have died in Italy, which was supposed to host the opening game of Euro 2020 in Rome. The head of the Italian football federation, Gabriele Gravina, had already led calls for the Euros to be postponed.
Euro 2020 was due to be held in 12 different cities across the continent, from as far apart as Dublin and Bilbao, to Saint Petersburg and Baku.
The semi-finals and final were due to be played in London and there would considerable knock-on effects to postponing the competition -- the women's European Championship is scheduled to run from July 7 to August 1 next year in England, with the final at Wembley.
The UEFA have also planned to stage an Under-21 Euros in Hungary and Slovenia in June next year.
Twenty of the 24 teams set to take part in the Euro have already qualified, but play-offs to determine the final four participants, due to be played later this month, will have to take place at a later date.
South American soccer body CONMEBOL said the tournament in Colombia and Argentina will be played between June 11 and July 11, the same dates as the postponed European Championship.
“It is an extraordinary measure for an unexpected situation, and it answers the fundamental need to avoid an exponential development of the virus, which is already present in all countries that are members of the confederation," CONMEBOL President Alejandro Domnguez said in a statement.
"We also thank UEFA and its president, Aleksander Ceferin, for the joint work and the coordinated decision to also postpone Euro 2020 for the benefit of all the soccer family."
The last Copa America was played in Brazil in 2019 and won by the hosts. This year's edition was expected to open a new era with the tournament every four years, at the same time as the European Championship.
CONMEBOL had already suspended its club competitions, the Copa Libertadores and the Copa Sudamericana, because of the outbreak.
(With agency inputs)