World governing body Fifa has cancelled the under-20 and under-17 women’s World Cups in the wake of ongoing challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Both youth tournaments, which were due to take place this year, had already been postponed to early 2021, with India set to host the under-17 edition and Costa Rica the under-20 competition.
England had already qualified for the under-17 World Cup as one of the three European teams with the highest ranking. Baroness Sue Campbell, the Football Association’s director of women’s football, said Fifa’s decision was the “right” one.
The Fifa Club World Cup, the world’s continental club championship which Liverpool won in December last year, has not been scrapped. The competition was due to be held next month in Qatar, but organisers have pushed it back until February 1-11 next year.
In a statement, Fifa said the decision to cancel both women’s tournaments was taken following consultations with all host member associations involved in the competitions.
Major concerns involving “challenges around preparation time for age-group teams, and the numerous obstacles to finalising the continental qualification tournaments due to the pandemic” were raised by its stakeholders, the body said in a statement on Tuesday.
Costa Rica and India, the nations which were due to hold the under-20 and under-17 women’s tournaments respectively, will keep the hosting rights for both tournaments, which will now be held in 2022.
Baroness Campbell said: “Sport is a tremendously important force for good, particularly during these challenging times, but it is right that Fifa have today put the safety and health of competing nations and their supporters at the heart of their decision to cancel the Youth World Cups.
“We will continue to work hard to progress our women’s development teams further over the coming months and remain optimistic and hopeful of the chance to celebrate our sport on the international stage once again when the global pandemic is behind us.”
Kay Cossington, the FA’s head of women’s technical development, added: “This has been an unprecedented year for football, and whilst the cancellation of the Fifa Women’s Youth World Cups is of course disappointing, we are fully supportive of the difficult decision Fifa have taken today.
“We were all looking forward to the tournament in India next year, but the health and wellbeing of competitors is, quite rightly, the primary concern for Fifa and all the national associations who were due to compete.”