Before Tuesday’s decision, UEFA officials had combed through various contracts and spoke with other main stakeholders, including broadcast partners, to make sure that postponement would not expose the organization in an unexpected way. Still, the decision is likely to cost the governing body millions in lost revenue.
Domestic soccer took priority in the end because of the possibility of insolvency and the potential impact on the wider soccer economy — especially for players and officials not contracted to the biggest and richest teams. Estimates for Germany alone indicate that more than 60,000 people are employed directly through the sport.
The decision also allows clubs to take stock of the repercussions of the virus, which has already led to some of the highest-profile players and teams being placed in isolation, including the 13-time European club champion Real Madrid, the Italian giant Juventus and a quarter of the clubs in the English Premier League. Some federation officials have also announced that they have contracted the virus.
For several weeks there had been a confused response from the soccer world, with some games being played as though nothing had changed, while others were moved behind closed doors, until finally there was no option to play on. The Premier League in England, the sport’s richest domestic league, was among the last to act.
That led to frustration and fury among some of the players. In a column for The Sunday Times, a London-based newspaper, the former Manchester United star Wayne Rooney criticized the soccer authorities for treating players like “guinea pigs” and for not sharing information about why they were being asked to play on while other European leagues had been suspended. Damiano Tommasi, a former Roma player and the head of the players’ union in Italy, said something similar when games were initially pushed behind closed doors and not canceled.
In his column, Rooney wrote that, “The rest of sport — tennis, Formula 1, rugby, golf, football in other countries — was closing down and we were being told to carry on.”
He added, “I think a lot of footballers were wondering, ‘Is it something to do with money being involved in this?”