By Samindra Kunti
April 8 – UEFA’s deadline for host cities to confirm minimum guarantees over fan attendance and seating capacities at this summer’s Euro 2020 lapsed yesterday (Wednesday), with Dublin and Bilbao now expected to drop out from staging any matches.
Last month, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said that he did not want any city hosting matches at the delayed Euro 2020 tournament if they could not guarantee fans, but with the Covid-19 pandemic still showing little sign of easing across the continent, where vaccination rollout has been slow, the 12 host cities have found themselves between a rock and a hard place as they had to update the European governing body on the prospect of hosting fans.
Ceferin later toned down his statement saying that “no city would automatically drop out” if they were forced to pursue a behind closed doors scenario.
However, it is still understood that cities that can’t guarantee fans this summer will be stripped from hosting matches. On Tuesday, the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) and the Irish government offered no assurances on spectators attending Euro 2020 games in Dublin.
Since October, Ireland has seen one of the toughest lockdowns in Europe and there is no sign from the government that restrictions will be eased enough by the time of the European Championship for fans to attend the matches at the Aviva Stadium.
In a statement, the FAI said: “The Football Association of Ireland, on advice and guidance from the government, has today notified UEFA that owing to the Covid-19 pandemic it is not in a position at this point to provide assurances on minimum spectator levels at the Euro 2020 matches due to be held in Dublin in June.
“In so doing, we have advised UEFA that the matter will be kept under review and that the Local Organising Structure (LOS) team including government will continue to discuss all issues with UEFA on an ongoing basis.”
In Spain, Bilbao is due to host three group stages matches and one round of sixteen game, but the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) similarly informed UEFA that they cannot guarantee minimum spectator levels at matches.
The RFEF cited that it would be “impossible” to meet the requirements of the Basque Government for fans to be allowed to watch matches at the San Mames stadium. Those requirements include that 60% of Spain’s population must be vaccinated by June 14 or having fewer than two per cent of intensive-care beds occupied by coronavirus patients.
UEFA however received good news from Scotland, who committed to staging their games with fans. The Scottish Football Association (SFA) said that Hampden Park would be full to 25% capacity, which would amount to roughly 12,000 fans at the stadium. “Naturally, this will be subject to continued progress with reducing the prevalence of the virus and the roll-out of the vaccination programme,” added the SFA in a statement.
The Scots followed in the footsteps of a slate of other host cities that offered guarantees, some modestly, to UEFA. The Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam would see at least 12,000 supporters attend under current proposals. In Copenhagen, at least 11,000 supporters are expected to be able to attend the four Euro 2020 games. The Italian Football Federation also said that the local government has green lighted fan attendance this summer, with Rome’s Stadio Olimpico slated to host the tournament’s curtain raiser between Italy and Turkey.
The pan-European tournament 12 twelve host cities, stretching from Dublin all the way to Baku and the Caspian Sea, was a brainchild of the former UEFA presdient Michel Platini, but the expanded format has posed a serious headache for organisers during the global health crisis. The championships are due to be played from June 11 to July 11, with London’s Wembley hosting the final. Portugal are the defending champions.
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1618093413labto1618093413ofdlr1618093413owedi1618093413sni@o1618093413fni1618093413