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(SOUNDBITE) (English) UEFA PRESIDENT, ALEKSANDER CEFERIN, SAYING: "We all know that this terrible virus that is all across Europe made football and all life in Europe quite impossible.
We knew we had to stop the competitions.
We think that postponing the Euro is the only chance to get a chance to the national leagues and to all the club competitions to finish their competiiton.
But also that is not sure for now but we should now think about the health, the fans of the players, and the players and of course we have to think about football as a whole, the whole ecosystem of football.
That's why we have decided today that we postpone the Euro and we have 100% full support of all 55 national associations, European leagues, the European Club Association and FIFPRO." STORY: The Euro 2020 Championship, trumpeted as a continent-wide feast of soccerfrom Dublin to Baku to mark UEFA's 60th anniversary, was postponed for a year on Tuesday (March 17) as the coronavirus pandemic claimed its biggest sporting casualty yet.
The fate of the 24-nation, month-long showpiece due to start in June had hung in the balance ever since Europe's domestic leagues began shutting down in the wake of the sweeping health crisis, which has killed around 7,000 people worldwide.
UEFA eventually relayed the news after an emergency video conference with all 55 of its affiliated national federations and representatives from clubs and leagues.
"We are at the helm of a sport that vast numbers of people live and breathe that has been laid low by this invisible and fast-moving opponent," UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said in a statement confirming what the Norwegian and Swedish FAs had already leaked earlier in the day.
Europe's flagship tournament, staged every four years and second only to FIFA's World Cup in terms of prestige in soccer, will now be staged from June 11 to July 12, 2021.
Sixteen playoff matches were due to be held on March 26 and 31 to decide the full line-up of nations for the tournament.
They will now be played in the international window at the start of June, subject to a review of the situation.
The new coronavirus has infected almost 180,000 people worldwide since emerging in China, and most of Europe now finds itself in virtual lockdown as governments desperately try to stop the spread of the disease.
It evolved into an eight-nation tournament in 1980 and in 1996, when it was held in England, it grew to 16 teams. The most recent edition in 2016, again in France, included 24 nations for the first time.
The final, in which Portugal beat the hosts, was watched by a television audience of 284 million.
The 2020 edition was supposed to be the first staged across the continent, rather than by a single or joint host nations.
The new format was the brainchild of former UEFA president Michel Platini.
The host cities were Glasgow, Dublin, Bilbao, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Munich, Rome, St Petersburg, Bucharest, Budapest and Baku, with the climax set for London's Wembley Stadium.
(Production: Andy Ragg)
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