The European Fencing Championships have been delayed until at least the autumn ©Getty Images

The European Fencing Championships in Plovdiv have been delayed until at least the autumn, following on from the cancellation of last year's event in Minsk because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2021 edition was originally due to be staged this month in the Bulgarian city, but with the pandemic meaning travel restrictions remain in place across much of Europe, National Federations were aware the event was unlikely to be held in June.

British Fencing, for example, picked its team in April but said it was still awaiting a formal invitation to the tournament from the European Fencing Confederation (EFC) because of uncertainty over the date.

Speaking to Russia's state-run news agency TASS, EFC President Stanislav Pozdnyakov confirmed that the European Championships "has been postponed until the fall".

This mirrors what happened to the 2020 edition, which was delayed from June before eventually being cancelled.

COVID-19 was blamed for the cancellation, although it came at a time when President Alexander Lukashenko and the Belarusian authorities were facing international condemnation for a severe crackdown on pro-democracy protestors.

Plovdiv  last held the European Fencing Championships in 2009  ©Getty Images
Plovdiv last held the European Fencing Championships in 2009 ©Getty Images

Several high-profile sporting events, including International Modern Pentathlon Union and International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships, have since been moved from Belarus, where human rights continue to be breached by the Government.

European Fencing Championships were last held in Düsseldorf in June 2019.

Plovdiv was awarded the 2021 edition at that year's EFC Congress, which was held at the same time in the German city.

Plovdiv has also hosted the competition in 1998 and 2009.