Euro 2020 12-city plan looks shaky as Covid spread sparks debate on venue reduction

By Andrew Warshaw

January 14 – Having already been postponed for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, doubts are beginning to set in as to whether Euro 2020 can be played under its current 12-venue, pan-Continental format next summer.

UEFA have made no public comment in recent weeks, its last pronouncement on the issue coming at the back end of November/beginning of December when it confirmed that a final decision will be taken on March 5 – in other words in just under two months’ time – in terms of whether fans will be allowed to attend games, and what percentage of stadium capacity.

But with its showpiece tournament due to start on June 11 and infection rates rising because of the new Covid-19 variant that is sweeping across Europe, fears are growing that a radical change of plan might be needed to allow UEFA’s showpiece tournament to go ahead at all.

For all kinds of logistical reasons, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has long expressed caution about a pan-European tournament, the brainchild of his predecessor Michel Platini as a one-off to mark the 60th anniversary of the competition.

Back in October Ceferin was quoted as saying: “Symbolically (it’s) a nice thing, but not an easy task for us, even regardless of the pandemic. Theoretically, we could hold the Euro in 12 countries, in 11, in 10, in three countries or in one.”

This week, the president of the Swiss FA, Dominique Blanc,  suggested that a reduction in venues is exactly what might have to happen.

In an interview with several Swiss media,  Blanc said it would be more practical to play the entire competition in a single country or two, or maybe even in one city.

“I think the Euro will be played, but no one can say yet how,” said Blanc.

“We are not sure what could happen. In view of the health situation, I personally believe that the initial version, with competition spread throughout Europe, is unlikely to see the light of day, given the travel restrictions. As things stand today, for instance, I don’t see Switzerland going to play in Baku.”

Blanc identified Russia, which staged the last World Cup,  or Germany, which has several cities and stadiums that could meet UEFA’s criteria, as two countries that could technically stage the event.

And he went further.

“The second solution, even more restrictive, would be to resort to a single large city, with enough stadiums to house the six groups. This could be the case in, say, London,” he added.

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