Given the current circumstances, it came as no surprise when the UEFA European Championships were postponed until 2021.
The format of the football tournament - which had proved rather unpopular before the outbreak anyway - has proved to be impossible to implement now coronavirus has its grip on Europe.
Competition was due to take place across 12 countries from June 11 to July 11 this year. Among the hosts are Italy, Germany, England, Spain, Scotland and The Netherlands, all of whom are currently implementing significant restrictions on daily life as they fight to contain COVID-19.
As it became clearer that coronavirus was going to have a long-lasting impact on Europe and domestic football ground to a halt, UEFA met to discuss the situation regarding the Euros. They decided on pushing it back exactly one year, with competition now scheduled for June 11 to July 11 2021.
A sigh of relief was breathed by organisers of European domestic leagues, who now have the summer to play their remaining fixtures. The decision also made complete sense in terms of public health, with thousands of football fans streaming from one country to the next the last thing needed after a pandemic.
It was not the best news for fans of women’s football, however.
Many had been looking forward to the 2021 edition of the Women’s Euros in England following a successful tournament in The Netherlands in 2017. With the men now moving to 2021, the fate of the women’s tournament is subsequently unknown.
The lack of clarity on the situation seemed to irk people more than anything else. The women’s tournament was essentially reduced to a footnote in an 828-word statement released by UEFA.
“Decisions on dates for other UEFA competitions, whether club or national team for men or women, will be taken and announced in due course,” UEFA said.
With the dates of the women’s Euros left undecided, debate began on what solution would be better.
Should the tournament still be held in 2021, thus providing back-to-back football tournaments, or should it be moved to 2022 to give the event enough room in the sporting calendar?
Let’s take a look at the first option. Currently, the women’s Euros are scheduled for July 7 to August 1 next year. Obviously, this results in a four-day overlap with the men’s event, which makes the original dates extremely unlikely.
Say the women’s Euros are pushed back a couple of weeks, then. This would result in a summer packed with football, a tantalising prospect for sport fanatics.
The men’s tournament could play a major role in promoting and building up anticipation for the women’s counterpart. If a team excels in the first event, building up national support and frenzy, there could be more appetite for the women’s contest when it comes around. End of tournament blues would be quickly dispelled with the realisation that there is another month of international football to come.
This is likely to be the case in England, anyway. The country is hosting the semi-final and final of the men’s event at the iconic Wembley Stadium, before the women’s competition is held across the country, with the final also at Wembley. The buzz throughout both tournaments could turn out to be quite something.
But what about the countries who are not hosting any matches? Fans may suffer a football “burnout”, especially with the potential of domestic leagues going deeper into the summer next year. Would people switch off as the women’s tournament began?
Women’s sport has always been overshadowed by men’s sport, and this could very easily happen if both Euros take place in the same year.
Subsequently, some have called for the women’s contest to be moved by a whole year instead, to 2022. Interestingly, the Swedish Football Association appeared to leak that this is indeed what is likely to happen, but it is yet to be confirmed.
Although frustrating to have to wait even longer for the tournament, the summer of 2022 would be a good time for the competition to take place.
With the Men’s FIFA World Cup taking place later that year in Qatar, the Women’s Euros would be the main football event that summer. It would be in the limelight, rather than sharing newspaper space and TV coverage with another tournament. In addition, football fans missing summer World Cup action would be likely to tune in.
Organisers could really capitalise on this, aiming to attract an enthusiastic large crowd such as those seen at the 2017 edition. That year's final saw 28,182 fill the De Grolsch Veste to watch The Netherlands take the crown.
Of course, the complete rescheduling of the tournament would take a lot of resources and effort, but such is the situation now with all sporting events due to the coronavirus outbreak, that is an option.
UEFA will now be working with organisers and bodies such as FIFA to determine the best outcome for the Women’s Euros. The lack of clarity surrounding the situation is rather disappointing, but the decision regarding the men’s tournament needed to be made in a hurry. It would be better for the Women’s Euros if more time is given to ensure the right outcome is made.
Whatever happens, organisers will ensure the positives of keeping the tournament in 2021 or moving it to 2022 are played upon.