March 3, 2020 / 12:28 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-Soccer-UEFA sets up group to focus on coronavirus fixture impact

(Adds detail, further quotes)

By Simon Evans

AMSTERDAM, March 3 (Reuters) - UEFA has set up a working group with the European Leagues association to handle any fixture fall-out caused by coronavirus related postponements.

With Euro 2020 qualifying playoffs pencilled in for later this month, as well as knock-out rounds in the Champions League and Europa League, UEFA admit it will be tough to reschedule games.

“We met with the European Leagues yesterday to create a coordination group to face the situation and find the best possible solutions,” said UEFA general secretary Theodore Theodoridis at UEFA’s congress on Tuesday.

“From our side we are addressing the situation by making contact with the WHO (World Health Organisation) and different governments. We don’t want to over-react but have a line of contact,” he said.

“The calendar is congested and it is difficult to find space, working together is where we will find solutions,” he said.

UEFA’s flagship competition, Euro 2020, will be held from June in 12 cities across Europe but for the moment Theodoridis says the organisation is focused on the March games.

“We have been working on different scenarios. The Euros start in June. We have matches coming in next weeks. We don’t want to share further details. The more urgent matters are coming in next two weeks. But there are plans for everything,” he said.

During the congress, FIFA president Gianni Infantino had said “it is important to work with authorities but not to panic” but Swiss FA president Dominique Blanc warned of serious consequences to the sport.

“Due to the coronavirus we are in a situation that could shake, for a part of us, professional football to its foundations,” he told the congress.

The Swiss league (SFL) has been put on hold until at least March 23 because of the coronavirus outbreak after the clubs rejected the possibility of playing matches behind closed doors.

Switzerland, which has had at least two dozen confirmed cases, introduced a ban on Friday on events expected to draw 1,000 people or more until March 15 in an effort to combat the coronavirus.

In response, the Swiss League called off all matches in the top two divisions and Saturday and Sunday and it has now extended the ban to the international break at the end of March.

The UEFA congress went ahead, with delegates from across the continent, without any major impact from the virus although Scotland manager Steve Clarke was not attending the Nations League draw, to be held later on Tuesday, as his association view it as an “unnecessary risk”. (Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond)

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