Uefa, European football’s governing body, will on Tuesday postpone this summer’s Euro 2020 Championships as the flagship tournament becomes the latest casualty of the coronavirus outbreak that has upended the global sporting calendar.
The tournament will be delayed in an effort to allow the continent’s domestic leagues to finish their seasons and avoid multibillion-euro hits to their businesses, said multiple people familiar with the matter.
Its organisers will meet on Tuesday with representatives of national football governing bodies, clubs, and leagues and players across the continent to plot their response to the crisis. Almost every football division in Europe has suspended matches or started playing matches in empty stadiums in response to the pandemic.
Consultancy KPMG predicted the “Big Five” football leagues in England, Spain, Germany, France and Italy face a hit of almost €4bn from lost match day, broadcasting and sponsorship revenues if the remaining games in their seasons are not completed.
The hope would be that by postponing the tournament, which is set to start in June and be hosted by 12 European cities, national leagues will be able to resume games later this summer after the peak of the outbreak has passed, the people said.
“We are waiting for the solution from federations and Uefa for future calendars,” said the owner of one of Europe’s biggest clubs, who declined to be named. “Then we can understand exactly the losses in order to prepare for our financial problems.”
Uefa declined to comment. The tournament would join a long list of global sporting fixtures that have been cancelled, with the National Basketball Association in North America joining Formula One, golf, tennis and rugby organisations halting their seasons over recent days.
The stakes for the domestic European leagues are high. Revenues from broadcasting, sponsorship and ticketing were worth €28.4bn across Europe in the 2017/18 season, according to the consultancy Deloitte. However, some countries are in a stronger position to cope with a sudden dip in income.
Over the 2017/18 season, English top division clubs made aggregate operating profits of almost €1bn, but Italian clubs made a combined operating profit of just €50m, while in France, clubs made an aggregate operating loss of €298m.
Karren Brady, vice-chairman of West Ham United of the Premier League, the world’s most valuable domestic football competition, has said the season should be declared “null and void because if the players can’t play the games can’t go ahead”.
Such a decision would trigger huge financial liabilities, as broadcasters will not have to pay for cancelled matches. In the UK alone, Sky and BT Sport currently pay more than £1.3bn each year to be the competition’s domestic TV broadcasters, with each match costing up to £9m.
Leading football clubs from across the continent warned their insurance policies are unlikely to cover the expected impact from lost broadcasting and ticketing revenue from cancelled league fixtures.
Executives at some of the Premier League’s leading clubs said their insurance policies covered cancellation of one or two matches covering a few million pounds, but not the cancellation of a whole season.
Insurance experts said that while many companies buy protection if an event is cancelled, communicable diseases such as Covid-19 are usually excluded and are only covered via an add-on, which not everybody buys.
One senior insurance executive said that add-ons for communicable diseases are often bought by US event organisers, but that is not the case in other parts of the world. Insurance cover for the Olympics, which its organisers still insist will continue in July as planned, could run to about $2bn, according to analysts at Jefferies.
“The big, global events will have a very comprehensive policy,” said Edel Ryan, of the special risks practice at insurance broker Marsh JLT Specialty. “In football, the appetite for cancellation cover is mixed,” added Ms Ryan. “Many won’t have it at all.”