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How Euro 2020 Was Saved

Cancellation, according to Ceferin, would have been a devastating financial blow, imperiling the future of some of the federations that rely on stipends from European soccer’s governing body for their existence.

“If you postpone, you can negotiate, and the loss is smaller,” Ceferin said. “But if you say, ‘We will not play at all,’ this is a big, big financial impact.”

After a couple of weeks of assessing their options — which included raising and then dismissing the possibility of staging the entire tournament in Russia or England — and discussions involving a dizzying array of partners, from politicians to stadium owners, sponsors and broadcasters, the hard work to save the multinational mosaic started again.

The first few calls were easy. Rescheduling the tournament for the same dates a year later solved the scheduling concerns, and since the merchandise with the Euro 2020 branding had been shipped, the tournament’s name would stay, too.

By the fall of 2020, in fact, it had been decided to stick as close to the original plan as possible, with one important guarantee: Even amid the pandemic, each host city would have to make provisions to allow fans to attend the matches.

The requirement seemed onerous and led to some tense exchanges between UEFA and national and regional governments. The decision, officials said, was partly made out of financial necessity — UEFA’s financial projections for the tournament have been revised downward by at least 300 million euros ($366 million) — but organizers also felt the return of fans, even in reduced capacities, was symbolically important.

“We want to come back to normality in life, and we want to come back to normality in football stadiums,” Kallen said. Crowds at a big event like the Euros, UEFA had decided, would send that signal.


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