'We do not want to over-react', say UEFA over looming coronavirus threat

SHOWS: AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS (MARCH 3, 2020) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL)

1. (SOUNDBITE) (English) REPORTER ASKING:

"The last week, the last month, we've seen the coronavirus all over the world, in Europe. IOC already said something about it, that it's disturbing for the Olympics. UEFA has been, well, downplaying it a little bit. What are the worries of it for you, and is it different because this tournament will be played in so many different countries?"

2. (SOUNDBITE) (English) UEFA GENERAL SECRETARY THEODORE THEODORIDIS SAYING:

"From our side, we are addressing the situation already by making contact the the World Health Organisation and with the different governments as well. Don't forget that we have ongoing matches, we have to deal with it in a case by case, we acknowledge the situation, we do not want to over-react, but, as I told you, we have created a lot of contact. Also, as we said earlier, yesterday, we had a meeting with the European leagues in order to create a co-ordination group to face the situation and to find the best possible solution. Our calendar is already congested, and postponement of matches is quite challenging where the matches should be played, so working together is where we will find the solution, so we do not want to over-react, we are aware of the situation, and we have established contacts and co-ordination groups to deal with it."

3. (SOUNDBITE) (English) REPORTER ASKING UEFA PRESIDENT ALEKSANDER CEFERIN:

"A clear case today that Steve Clarke, the Scotland manager is not coming because of concerns over the coronavirus. When it reaches that sort of level, how much of a concern is it now becoming to the organisation and indeed the future tournament?"

UEFA PRESIDENT ALEKSANDER CEFERIN: "Look, we - we even don't know how many concerns we have when we organise a big competition, and we organise now a competition in 12 countries. We have security concerns, we have political instability concerns, especially in 12 countries, and one of the concerns is also that virus. We are dealing with it and we are confident that we can deal with it."

4. (SOUNDBITE) (English) REPORTER ASKING:

"If the Euros were disrupted as the result of this virus, would you consider moving games to different cities, would you consider moving games to different countries if necessary?"

UEFA GENERAL SECRETARY THEODORE THEODORIDIS SAYING: "We do not want to start speculating at this stage. We would like to deal with it seriously, case by case, involving the different stakeholders, as we said governments, and the other leagues, the clubs, and take our decisions case by case. We do not want to start speculating about what will happen in three or four months time."

UEFA PRESIDENT ALEKSANDER CEFERIN: "Let's try to be optimistic, let's don't just think about the dark scenarios, it's time for that later."

5. WIDE VIEW OF THE PRESS CONFERENCE

6. (SOUNDBITE) (English) REPORTER ASKING:

"Mr Ceferin, I wonder if you have a deadline in mind when you feel like you need to make a decision on the Euros with coronavirus?"

UEFA PRESIDENT ALEKSANDER CEFERIN: "No."

STORY: 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 president Aleksander Ceferin added that "we are confident that we can deal with it".

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.

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".

(Production: Mike Brock)