UEFA has paid out €70million of benefits in advance to clubs that released players for European Championship qualifiers and the Nations League.

Following a meeting of its executive committee on Thursday, UEFA announced payments that were scheduled to be made upon completion of the Euro play-offs – which were postponed in March amid the coronavirus pandemic – have been brought forward.

According to the governing body, 676 clubs from its 55 member associations will receive amounts ranging from €3,200 to €630,000 for allowing their players to participate.

The funds form a chunk of a €200m pot UEFA distributes to teams as part of the memorandum of understanding with the European Club Association (ECA).

The remaining €130m will be shared among clubs that release players for the European Championship, which was pushed back from June and July this year to 2021 as result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

"European clubs are an integral part of the success of our national team competitions," said UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin.

"As a result, a share of our national team competition revenues is distributed to the clubs which release players for those matches.

"In these difficult times when many clubs are facing financial issues, especially with their cash flow, it was our duty to make sure that clubs receive these payments as quickly as possible."

ECA chairman Andrea Agnelli said: "This represents a much-needed liquidity injection into club finances and is a result of ECA's joint work with UEFA on safeguarding clubs at this time of existential threat.

"Whilst public health remains our primary concern, securing financial, legal and regulatory relief in advance of restarting football across Europe, once it is safe to do so, is of paramount importance to ECA and its members."

UEFA has pushed the Women's Euro 2021 back by 12 months to avoid a clash with the rearranged men's Euro 2020 tournament.

European football's governing body announced last month that Euro 2020 – which was due to begin in June and be played in 12 cities across the continent – had been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The tournament's new dates will see it begin on June 11, 2021 and finish exactly a month later, which would have seen it overlap slightly with the women's competition's previous kick-off date of July 7.

But with UEFA eager to ensure the women's European Championship – hosted in England – gets the attention it deserves, the decision has been made for it to take place from July 6-31, 2022.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said: "When we had to take an urgent decision on the postponement of Euro 2020, we always had the impact on Women's Euro 2021 in mind.

"We have carefully considered all options, with our commitment to the growth of women's football at the forefront of our thinking. By moving Women's Euro 2021 to the following year, we are ensuring that our flagship women's competition will be the only major football tournament of the summer, providing it with the spotlight it deserves."

Nadine Kessler, UEFA's chief of women's football, added: "The core question guiding us together with the English FA was: What is best for women's football?

"With the Olympics now being confirmed for summer 2021, we firmly believe that moving to 2022 is in the best interests of the tournament, the players, the fans, women's football partners and everybody involved in all areas and at all levels of the game.

"Women's Euro 2021 is Europe's biggest women's sport event. It is also among the biggest sports events in the world, and therefore needs and deserves a platform of its own. This decision puts us in a position to deliver a tournament that attracts global attention, maximises media coverage and increases stadium attendances, and is therefore helping us to meet our core objective of inspiring the next generation of footballers."

The play-offs to determine the final spots for the European Championship are likely to take place in October and November, according to Football Association of Ireland (FAI) CEO Gary Owens.

The coronavirus pandemic led to the postponement of Euro 2020 for 12 months, with the play-off fixtures that were scheduled for March having also been called off.

With no confirmed date for when international football will return, it remains to be seen when those matches will be held.

The Republic of Ireland are among the teams waiting for official confirmation, with Slovakia their opponents and either Bosnia-Herzegovina or neighbours Northern Ireland awaiting the victors.

UEFA held an update with its member nations via teleconference on Tuesday, with FAI chief Owens offering an update on when the play-off games will go ahead after that meeting.

Owens told FAI TV: "There has been a slight move on that [play-off dates]. Originally, we thought it may well be November but it now looks like the semi-final is the preferred option in October.

"They don't want to have the semi-final and the final of the play-offs in the one month. It looks like the Nations League matches will be in September and October, with the semi-final play-off in October and the final play-off in November."

Earlier on Tuesday, UEFA announced it is to produce new guidelines outlining qualification criteria for its competitions from domestic leagues that cannot be completed.

However, the governing body once again recommended competitions should be finished if possible.

Italy coach Roberto Mancini insists the door remains open for Mario Balotelli to make a return to the national team.

Balotelli has not played for his country since a 1-1 draw with Poland in September 2018, when he featured for just over an hour of the Nations League fixture.

The forward scored five goals in 19 appearances for bottom club Brescia before the Serie A season was halted due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, having returned to his homeland after three years in France.

Still, Mancini knows all about the player's qualities from their time working together previously, having coached him at Inter and Manchester City prior to taking charge of the Azzurri.

"If he only thinks about football and does what he has to do, the doors are open, for him as for many other players who may not have been called up," Mancini said in an interview with Sport Mediaset.

"Mario is like everyone else - he has important qualities, but it depends only on him."

Balotelli is not the only player who could benefit from Euro 2020 being pushed back due to the COVID-19 outbreak across Europe.

Roma's Nicolo Zaniolo was set to miss the tournament this year due to injury, yet now has time to recover and be part of Italy's plans in 2021.

Mancini said of the versatile 20-year-old: "He will grow like the other younger boys. Another year will be important for him.

"The first time I saw him he played as a midfielder and I think that's his position. But he has the possibility to play wide on the right, as he is playing in Rome at times. 

"If a player with important qualities can fill multiple roles without any problems, this is an advantage for him and for us."

Italy qualified in impressive fashion, running away with Group J with a 100 per cent record, giving Mancini confidence they can do well when the finals eventually take place.

"Bringing the championship back to Italy after so many years, since the last one was won in 1968, would be a magnificent thing we want to do. We have the qualities to do it," he added.

Stephen Kenny has replaced Mick McCarthy as Republic of Ireland manager, the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) announced on Saturday.

The former Dundalk boss was primed to take the helm after Euro 2020, but the postponement of that tournament to next year amid the coronavirus pandemic has forced the FAI's hand.

Ireland face Slovakia in the play-offs for the continental competition, but that tie is also subject to an indefinite delay.

McCarthy, whose contract was due to expire on July 31, has therefore stepped aside early, with Under-21s boss Kenny officially taking on the role earlier than his previous start date of August 1.

"The Football Association of Ireland announces that Mick McCarthy is to be succeeded as national team manager by Stephen Kenny with immediate effect," read a statement from the governing body.

"The handover has been agreed with both men in light of the delay to the European Championship play-offs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Mick McCarthy's contract was due to expire on July 31 after the UEFA Euro 2020 finals, with Stephen initially scheduled to step up from his Under-21 team role on August 1.

"This move allows Stephen Kenny time to plan for the European Championship play-off semi-final against Slovakia later in the year."

UEFA has postponed all national team matches scheduled to be played under its auspices in June, including the play-offs for the delayed Euro 2020 finals.

European football's governing body held a video conference on Wednesday with representatives from all 55 member associations.

Those involved considered recommendations made by the working groups UEFA set up last month to address the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

After that meeting on March 17, it was confirmed Euro 2020 would be moved to June and July of next year, although play-off games were still slated to take place during the international break at the scheduled end of the 2019-20 season.

However, all UEFA matches are now postponed until further notice, while deadlines relating to the 2020-21 campaign for the organisation's club competitions are similarly on hold, with the prospect of football's shutdown going beyond the June 30 date where player contracts typically expire alluded to as a potential complication.

"The deadlines related to all 2020-21 UEFA club competitions are postponed until further notice, in particular as regards the admission process and the registration of players," a press release read. “UEFA will set new deadlines in due course."

At the initial meeting, UEFA made a commitment to try and complete all European and domestic club competitions by the end of June – a prospect that appears increasingly fanciful as leagues across the continent remain suspended with little sign of a resumption.

UEFA has also stated it will relax Financial Fair Play and club licensing measures related to its 2020-21 competitions as clubs deal with unprecedented times.

"The Executive Committee reiterated its full commitment to club licensing and Financial Fair Play and agreed that the current exceptional circumstances necessitate some specific interventions to facilitate the work of member associations and clubs," the statement read.

"It supports the proposal to give member associations more time to complete the club licensing process, until the admission process for next season’s UEFA club competitions has been redefined.

"As a result of the increasing uncertainty generated by the ongoing extraordinary events, the executive committee also decided to suspend the club licensing provisions that relate to the preparation and assessment of clubs' future financial information. This decision applies exclusively for participation in the 2020-21 UEFA club competitions."

Additionally, UEFA cancelled its European Under-17 Championship and European Women's Under-19 Championship, scheduled for May and July respectively.

The corresponding European Under-19 Championship and European Women's Under-17 Championship are postponed with the aim of rearranging, given they double up as qualifying competitions for FIFA's U-20 World Cup and U-17 Women's World Cup.

Next month's UEFA Futsal Championship League finals have also been postponed until further notice.

Athletes are at risk of having their careers cut short if soon-to-be free agents face a prolonged period of unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic, warned World Players Association executive director Brendan Schwab.

COVID-19 has brought sport to a standstill across the globe, with the 2020 Olympic Games, major European football leagues, the NBA, MLB and NHL postponed.

Euro 2020 and Copa America 2020 have been pushed back to next year amid the fight to combat the spread of the virus, which has claimed more than 21,290 lives.

It remains to be seen when and if the 2019-20 Premier League, LaLiga, Serie A, Bundesliga and Ligue 1 seasons will resume, raising doubts over the futures of football players – whose contracts are due to expire in June.

The likes of Edinson Cavani and Thiago Silva (both Paris Saint-Germain), Willian (Chelsea) and Dries Mertens (Napoli) are all set to become free agents.

As clubs and organisations try to reduce costs amid the economic crisis, Schwab – who works for World Players, which brings together 85,000 players across professional sports through more than 100 player associations in over 60 countries – told Stats Perform: "The challenge is to ensure enough liquidity during the shutdown so that the same content can be delivered to fans, broadcasters and brands but over a longer period.

"Existing contracts and regulations such as contract expiry dates and transfer windows will all need to be reformulated which can only be done though collective decision-making involving governments, sports bodies, broadcasters, stadia operators, player unions and civil society. The impact on the sporting schedule will be long-lasting and may take several years to return to normal.

"Seasons just starting – such as MLB, AFL and NRL – have a longer struggle in many ways. Shortened seasons are likely, but it all depends on the length of the shutdown, liquidity and the window available to complete seasons. Sports which own their own infrastructure will have greater flexibility and will be in a stronger position to design solutions.

"The key is collective decision-making, goodwill and long-term thinking, all of which can be difficult during such uncertainty. Many key sports governing, commercial and player contracts have 'force majeure' clauses which may apply in these circumstances. Certain parties may be able to 'cut and run', but that will only worsen the bleeding and make recovery more difficult. We need to bunker down, show we care about our people, fight the pandemic, exercise restraint, save as many jobs and legitimate commercial interests as we can, and re-emerge with a renewed, sustainable and collectively developed economic model.

"Tuesday was the anniversary of the death of arguably football’s most influential figure, Johan Cruyff. He famously said that there is advantage in every disadvantage. That thinking is needed right now."

Schwab added: "Individual players will be impacted differently. The destiny of free agents will depend much on the state of the leagues once the shutdown has been lifted. There is a risk that players coming off contract will face a prolonged period of unemployment if the shutdown continues, which can be career ending.

"The top players should be OK during this period, but remember they are a fraction of players and athletes who work professionally. It is likely that the economic impact of the shutdown will result in a deflated labour market for some time, which will suppress wages even among the viable leagues. For leagues outside the very top echelon, it may be a battle for survival.

"However, sport's essential role in society will be unchanged and may even be renewed and elevated. It will have a critical role to play as the community reunites after the pandemic and we expect a major resurgence in demand. Sport is therefore an important part of government planning, and it is pleasing to see that progressive governments in Switzerland, Sweden and some other countries have included sport in the stimulus packages they are announcing. They will reap a community dividend for doing so even as they balance the essential interests of the broader society and economy."

"[Next year] an intense year for sport as current seasons will now run well into the northern summer and that will require a readjusted schedule in 2021," the Australian executive continued. "The postponement of the Olympics may allow for existing concerns to be addressed including the health and safety impacts of the extreme heat of July-August in Tokyo. These issues all need to be worked through. We shouldn't assume the Olympics are simply put back 12 months. We are consulting with our affiliates about how to approach the shaping of the 2021 sports calendar."

Coronavirus has largely affected the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions, but Schwab said: "We have been concerned with some of the heath information being conveyed, including that COVID-19 is a disease that mainly affects the elderly and the vulnerable. Athletes, too, are vulnerable, despite being young and fit. The disease attacks the lungs, and athletes themselves have suffered very severe symptoms which may be long-lasting. There have been fatalities among people between 20 and 44 and young people can transmit the virus even if they don't have symptoms.

"Players have also been forced into quarantine when living away from their families. It is necessary that effective support mechanisms are in place to ensure the mental health and social wellbeing of players as well as their physical health. Our player unions play an essential role here."

Eden Hazard believes it would only be fair to judge his time at Real Madrid at the end of next season.

The 29-year-old agreed a move to the Spanish capital last June after seven successful campaigns at Chelsea, during which time he won two Premier Leagues, a pair of Europa League titles and a PFA Players' Player of the Year award.

However, translating that success to his new club has proved challenging for Hazard, who scored only once across 10 LaLiga appearances before suffering an ankle injury last month that was likely to keep him out for the remainder of the season.

Hazard, who was sidelined between November and January with a similar problem, admitted it has hardly been a debut campaign to remember with Los Blancos, though he knows he has time to win the critics around.

"My first season in Madrid has been bad, but it's not all bad, it's a season of adaptation," he explained in an interview with RTBF.

"I'll be judged on my second season. It's a great group of players, I've met a lot of new people. It's been a great experience for me.

"I've still got four years left on my contract and I hope to be in form."

Though he only had the stitches in his ankle removed last week after undergoing surgery in Dallas, Hazard had expected to be available to represent Belgium at Euro 2020.

However, that tournament has been delayed for 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"I'd hoped to be fit [for the Euros] so it's a bit disappointing that they've been postponed," Hazard added.

"I'd planned to play, the operation was a few weeks ago now.

"We'll all be a year older in 2021, which is a shame, but it'll allow me to be in form.

"I think it's probably hard for the fans because they want to watch an international tournament every summer, so it's hard for them.

"But I also think that there are priorities in life that mean it had to be cancelled. Footballers are like everyone else at the end of the day. It'll wait until next year."

Italy coach Roberto Mancini was disappointed Euro 2020 had to be called off but described the recent scenes in his country as "a punch in the face".

UEFA made the decision to postpone the European Championship until 2021, while all other UEFA competitions and matches for clubs and national teams have been put on hold until further notice.

Mancini said he had been talking to players as part of his preparations for Italy's scheduled March friendlies against England and Germany.

But with the coronavirus hitting Italy particularly hard, he said his focus now is on helping those in need, with the death toll in Italy passing 4,800 on Saturday.

"In the past few weeks I called some of my players, especially those who are injured and ones in doubt," Mancini told Gazzetta dello Sport. "I worked on the friendlies with England and Germany and I started setting up Euro 2020.

"I must admit that I felt disappointed when it was announced [that it was cancelled].

"The film of that military convoy that took the coffins away from Bergamo was a punch in the face, the hardest and most striking image.

"No one was ready for this hell. To think that people are dying because there's a lack of beds and respirators.

"I never even thought about leaving Italy, because I feel safe here and our medics are doing heroic work. I want to feel close to those who are in difficulty.

"And I say that as a simple citizen, not as someone who has a symbolic role in Italy."

Mancini said he was heartened by the displays of solidarity among Italian citizens being widely shared on social media, where videos of communities spontaneously bursting into song from their balconies have become popular.

"I like it very much," said the former Manchester City head coach. "It's the most authentic Italy. It represents us.

"It is we who give our best in difficult circumstances, when we hug, help and put all our humanity into play.

"These people, after so much pain and fear, would have deserved the European Championship to get distracted and start again."

UEFA says no decision has been made over the name for the European Championship next year after earlier stating it would remain Euro 2020.

It was announced this week that the tournament has been postponed until 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

If the competition had gone ahead as scheduled, it would have marked the 60th anniversary of the European Championship and it appeared on Friday there would be no rebranding for that reason.

A reply on a frequently asked questions page on UEFA's website read: "We trust that all of our venues will remain the same, ensuring the tournament remains true to its original vision: staging a truly Europe-wide event that befits the EURO's 60th birthday. 

"The tournament will still be known as UEFA EURO 2020."

A tweet from the UEFA account also read: "Although it will provisionally take place from 11 June - 11 July 2021, #EURO2020 will still be known as UEFA EURO 2020."

The governing body later revealed those posts were wide of the mark.

A UEFA tweet said: "With apologies for the earlier error, to be clear no decision has yet been made on the name of the rearranged EURO to be held in 2021. The earlier tweet was sent by mistake."

UEFA has insisted Euro 2020 will not be rebranded despite having been provisionally suspended by 12 months as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

It was announced earlier this year the latest instalment of the tournament will be pushed back to 2021, with the competition set to take place between June 11 and July 11 next year.

Despite having to delay its flagship international event, UEFA still intends to retain the Euro 2020 name.

Holding the Euros this year would have marked the 60th anniversary of the European Championship.

A reply on a frequently asked questions page on UEFA's website read: "We trust that all of our venues will remain the same, ensuring the tournament remains true to its original vision: staging a truly Europe-wide event that befits the EURO's 60th birthday. 

"The tournament will still be known as UEFA EURO 2020."

The decision to postpone the Euros was taken in order to allow UEFA's member nations to complete their respective seasons, most of which have been suspended due to the spread of COVID-19.

UEFA added that is not yet able to say if its major club competition finals will still take place on their original dates and at their scheduled venues.

"It is too early to say. Our aim is to complete all European and domestic club competitions by the end of the current sporting season – 30 June 2020 – if the situation improves," read an answer to another question. 

"However, the health of all people involved in the game must first be guaranteed.

"The working group will assess different scenarios. We must wait for the outcome of its discussions as well as the evolution of the situation before reaching any conclusions."

UEFA was also unable to say how qualification for next year's club competitions may work amid the uncertainty, adding: "It is too early to answer this question and our objective is to ensure that all domestic competitions can be completed."

Gareth Southgate called medical staff fighting the coronavirus pandemic "heroes" as the England boss spoke about the pride he expects to feel when the postponed European Championship finally takes place.

Earlier this week it was confirmed by UEFA that Euro 2020, which had been scheduled to begin on June 12, had been pushed back a year due to the spread of COVID-19 and its chaotic impact on the sporting calendar.

It is hoped the suspension will ensure domestic seasons and continental cup competitions can resume and be completed in the window when the Euros were due to happen.

Southgate, whose team have seen friendlies against Italy and Denmark this month cancelled, has written a letter to England fans telling them not to "spend another moment thinking about the postponement" while paying tribute to those working to combat coronavirus.

"For everyone in our country, the primary focus of the present - and the coming months - is undoubtedly to look after our families, support our communities and work together to come through what it clearly the most extreme test that we've faced collectively in decades," Southgate said.

"On behalf of all the teams and staff, I would like to take this opportunity to send our sympathies to those who have lost loved ones already. Our thoughts are with you and with those who sadly will suffer similarly in the coming period."

He added: "We were due to play next week and to represent you all this summer, but now is clearly not the moment for us to take centre-stage.

"The heroes will be the men and women who continue working tirelessly in our hospitals and medical centres to look after our friends and families. They won't receive the individual acclaim, but we all know their importance is beyond anything we do on the pitch.

"When we play again as an England team, it will be a time when not only our country but the rest of the world as well is on the road to recovery. Hopefully we will be closer to each other than ever, and ready for the beautiful distraction that football can bring.

"To play in a European Championship next summer will still be possible for all of our squad and so we shouldn't spend another moment thinking about the postponement of the competition.

"I feel sure that, when that moment comes, I will never have been prouder to be the leader."

FIFA has set up a working group to look at the potential impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the transfer of players.

With the majority of leagues across the globe suspended due to the proliferation of COVID-19, UEFA decided to postpone Euro 2020 by a year and CONMEBOL pushed back the Copa America until 2021.

The 2019-20 season could consequently continue into the opening of the transfer window, which for most European countries will be in June, and see players required beyond the expiration of their contracts.

Following a conference call on Wednesday, the bureau of the FIFA council announced amendments to its regulations on transfers will be looked into.

The FIFA-Confederations working group will be responsible for "assessing the need for amendments or temporary dispensations to the FIFA regulations on the status and transfer of players to protect contracts for both players and clubs and adjusting player registration periods". It will also look at issues relating to the competition calendar and whether a potential support fund should be established.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino said: "This exceptional situation requires exceptional measures and decisions. This crisis impacts the entire world and that is why solutions need to take into account the interests of all stakeholders around the world.

"We have shown again today a spirit of co-operation, solidarity and unity. These must be our key drivers moving forward and I would like to thank all the confederations' presidents for their positive contributions and efforts.

"FIFA will keep in close contact with all stakeholders to assess and take the necessary steps to deal with the variety of issues we are facing. I count on the support of the whole football community moving forward."

It was also announced the European Championship and Copa America were granted slots from June 11 until July 11 in the 2021 international match calendar, with a new date for the revamped Club World Cup to be selected at a later stage.

In addition, FIFA ratified a $10million donation to the World Health Organization COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

Netherlands head coach Ronald Koeman said his Barcelona clause has been delayed until 2021 after the European Championship was postponed a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Former Barca defender Koeman was in line to take over from Ernesto Valverde, who was sacked and replaced by Quique Setien in January.

Koeman previously revealed his Netherlands contract contains a clause that allows him to depart for Camp Nou following Euro 2020.

With the Euros pushed back 12 months amid the COVID-19 outbreak, Dutchman Koeman addressed his contract.

"The clause in my contract to go to Barcelona is for after the European Championship," Koeman said via Marca.

"No date has been mentioned, so now it's after the European Championship in 2021.

"But I haven't thought about it for a second anyway."

UEFA confirmed the postponement of Euro 2020 on Tuesday, with the competition due to be staged across June and July in 2021.

All other UEFA competitions and matches for clubs and national teams have been put on hold until further notice. 

Netherlands were set to be without star Memphis Depay this year due to a knee injury but Koeman said: "It's a lucky break, but it's a shame that the European Championship won't be played now.

"We qualified at a good level, we were in good shape and we wanted to continue in this vein."

FIFA is backing the decisions to move Euro 2020 and the Copa America to next year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

UEFA and CONMEBOL announced on Tuesday that the tournaments will be postponed until 2021 to make it possible for the 2019-20 club seasons to be completed once local suspensions on league football have been lifted.

FIFA will convene a conference call with Council members on Wednesday where president Gianni Infantino will call for the revised Euro and Copa America dates to be accepted.

Members will also discuss plans to reschedule the revised 2021 Club World Cup, which is due to be held from June 17 until July 4 next year.

Infantino is also proposing FIFA contribute funds towards the global fight against COVID-19.

In a statement, he said he will encourage FIFA to ratify a direct $10million contribution to the World Health Organisation Solidarity Response Fund and establish a 'Global Football Assistance Fund' to "help members of the football community affected by this crisis".

FIFA will also consult with football stakeholders over any necessary changes to rules regarding transfers, so as to "protect contracts for both players and clubs".

He added: "It goes without saying that FIFA will keep in regular contact with all members of the football community during this difficult period. As I stated yesterday, challenging circumstances offer the opportunity for people to come together, show what they can do in a collective spirit, and emerge stronger and better prepared for the future.  And this is what FIFA is aiming to do here.

"The world is facing an unprecedented health challenge and clearly a global and collective response is needed. Cooperation, mutual respect and understanding must be the guiding principles for all decision makers to have in mind at this crucial moment in time."

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