FIFA postpones U-17 Women's World Cup in India due to COVID-19

File photo: The Gateway of India illuminated with lights during the Official Emblem Launch of the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup. Aparna Jayakumar - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

The FIFA Under-17 Women's World Cup, to be held in India in November, was postponed by football's governing body on Saturday, due to the worsening COVID-19 pandemic across the globe.

The tournament was to be held at five venues in the country -- Kolkata, Guwahati, Bhubaneswar, Ahmedabad and Navi Mumbai -- from November 2 to 21. It was to be competed among 16 teams, with hosts India being automatic qualifiers in what would have been India's maiden appearance in the U-17 Women's World Cup.

The decision was taken by the FIFA-Confederations working group which was recently established by the Bureau of the FIFA Council to address the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The working group recommended the Bureau of FIFA Council to "postpone the FIFA Under-20 Women's World Cup Panama/Costa Rica 2020 - originally scheduled for August/September 2020 - and the FIFA Under-17 Women's World Cup India 2020 - originally scheduled for November 2020."

"New dates will be identified," FIFA said in a statement.

It was also decided "to create a sub-working group on the women's international match calendar to consider potential changes to the calendar and dates of postponed FIFA final tournaments".

The working group includes the FIFA administration, Secretary Generals and top executives from all confederations.

It unanimously approved a series of recommendations following its first meeting, which was organised via conference late on Friday.

While the tournament was five months away, the only qualifying event that could be held so far was for Asia -- from which Japan and North Korea made the cut. Five remaining qualifying events -- that of Africa, Europe, Oceania, South America, and Central, North America and Caribbean -- saw a halt due to the ongoing global health crisis, which has affected more than a million people.

The official schedule of the tournament was announced in February, and Navi Mumbai was to host the final.

FIFA thanked the Confederations' representatives for their cooperation. They further reiterated that health must always be the first priority and the main criteria in any decision-making process, especially in these "challenging times".

In other decisions, the working group recommended "to postpone all international matches due to be played during the upcoming June 2020 window; and to organise bilateral discussions with confederations concerning 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in order to finalise a revised match schedule pending health and safety developments".

As for the women's international calendar, it was decided "to postpone all international matches due to be played during the upcoming June 2020 window; and to include the new dates of the women's Olympic Football Tournament in the match calendar."