The Japan Football Association has decided to relinquish its right to host this year’s Club World Cup due to the country’s COVID-19 restrictions and is in discussions with FIFA three months before it is set to begin.
The tournament which was (and officially still is) scheduled to start on 9 December. As UEFA Champions League winners, Chelsea is set to enter in the semifinal round only, about a week later, while the final follows on 19 December.
The Asian nation would have hosted the tournament for the first time for its centennial celebrations, but rising cases in COVID-19 and the possibility of a limit on the number of spectators have now forced them to withdraw.
Japan has just concluded a busy summer of sporting action that saw the nation host the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
There has been significant political fallout from the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, including their choice to push ahead with the Games.
Tensions came to a head when Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced he will be stepping down after just 12 months in office.
The Japanese Government extended their emergency COVID-19 restrictions on Thursday to Tokyo and other regions until the end of this month to curb infections and prevent hospitals being overwhelmed.
Japan has been struggling with a fifth wave of the virus and last month extended their long-running curbs until 12 September to cover about 80 per cent of the population.
But the number of severe cases and the strain on the medical system have not eased sufficiently in Tokyo and surrounding areas to allow restrictions to be lifted. The measures will now stretch until September 30, including for Osaka in the west.
Last season’s tournament went ahead after a two-month delay in Qatar, who remain the obvious choice to host it again.
FIFA will announce an alternative host for the tournament, which is due to involve Champions League winners and Premier League giants Chelsea.