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Euro 2020 ‘had to be sacrificed’

Long wait: Euro 2020 is no more, with the tournament now due to take place next year PICTURE: REUTERS

FOOTBALL’S European Championship has been pushed back 12 months in response to the coronavirus pandemic, but Olympic organisers still insist they remain on schedule to host Tokyo 2020.

A Uefa meeting yesterday agreed what president Aleksander Ceferin called ‘the biggest sacrifice’ by switching Euro 2020 to proposed new dates of June 11 to July 11, 2021.

Freeing up the summer makes it more likely this season’s club competitions will be completed, and Ceferin said: ‘There was a real spirit of co-operation, with everyone recognising they had to sacrifice something in order to achieve the best result.

‘It was important that, as the governing body of European football, Uefa led the process and made the biggest sacrifice.

‘Moving Euro 2020 comes at a huge cost but we will do our best to ensure funding for grassroots, women’s football and the development of the game is not affected.’

Wembley is set to host group games, semi-finals and the final, with other matches staged across Europe, and Ceferin said Uefa was desperate to avoid matches behind closed doors.

‘Football is an uplifting and powerful force in society,’ he added. ‘The thought of celebrating a festival of football in empty stadia is a joyless one and one we couldn’t accept.’

The International Olympic Committee maintained it was business as usual for this summer’s Games, due to start on July 24.

A statement said: ‘The IOC remains fully committed to the Olympic Games. There is no need for any drastic decisions at this stage.’

But British heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson questioned advice that athletes should continue preparations ‘as best they can’. She said: ‘The IOC advice encourages athletes to continue to prepare, but government legislation is enforcing isolation at home with tracks, gyms and public spaces closed. I feel under pressure to train and keep the same routine, which is impossible.’