Uefa today confirmed that the 2021 Women’s European Championship in England will be rescheduled to accommodate the men’s edition, which was due to take place this summer but was pushed back a year as football attempts to get to grips with the coronavirus crisis.
With the men’s tournament postponed until 11 June, 2021, and running until the Wembley final on 11 July, there is a four-day overlap with the women’s tournament which was due to kick off on 7 July at Old Trafford.
The Guardian understands that, despite some federations believing this to mean the women’s tournament will fill the vacant summer 2022 slot– with the men’s World Cup being held in the winter – the option of playing the two European tournaments back to back in 2021 is still very much on the table.
Though Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin hinted that the former may be preferred when he told AP that it was “one of the most likely [possibilities] to happen”.
”We are thinking of postponing this Women’s Euro and Under-21 championship as well,” he said. “We will have to postpone both because I don’t think that we should cannibalise the women’s Euro with the men’s Euro just one month before.”
Both options have their pitfalls. Pushing the women’s Euros back to 2022 would mean, with the future of the Olympics in question, that there could be a three-year gap in top-level international women’s football. Sponsorship cycles would likely need to be renegotiated. And, there would likely be implications for European qualifying for the 2023 World Cup.
Moving the competition to 2022 would also throw up some interesting issues for the FA and the Lionesses. Phil Neville’s contract is up for renewal in 2021, after the women’s Euros as presently scheduled, and there has been a feeling that, despite England’s poor run of form, the short window before the Lionesses bid for a European trophy on home soil means changing manager would be difficult. While the FA have privately said they are fully behind the manager, a change in the calendar could prompt a shift in attitudes were a new candidate able to have time in which to impact the team’s fortunes.
There is also the issue of whether Neville himself wishes to continue for an additional year. And, the ageing Lionesses, many of whom have been targeting the home tournament for their international swansong, would also be forced to consider whether they will be able play on at the top level for an extra year.
However, persisting with the tournament in 2021 would see the build up to it consumed by the men’s tournament, going head to head with it for column inches and airtime, and there will likely be fears of the summer reaching a football saturation point before a ball is kicked at Old Trafford.