Euro 2020 final at Wembley in the balance as covid rule change request creates political anxiety

By Paul Nicholson

June 18 – Rumours that UEFA could switch the Euro 2020 final from London to another venue outside the UK have gathered pace with discussion ongoing about provision of a special covid protocol that would allow fans of teams in for the final without having to undergo normal quarantine procedures.

UEFA has responded saying that: “There is always a contingency plan but we are confident that the final week will be held in London.”

Currently under UK rules anyone entering the country from amber listed countries (which covers all the Euro 2020 participants) has to quarantine for 10 days.

UEFA, who are determined to ensure fans from countries in the final can attend, want to see a testing and bubble regime that would allow fans to enter the UK for 24 hours but with all their movement restricted to covid-secure transport and venues only.

Complicating what is perceived as a politically sensitive discussion within government, a leak to the British press said that UEFA was demanding 2,500 exemptions from all quarantine requirements for the knockout rounds – Wembley is hosting both semi-finals and the final. Those exemptions would be for UEFA officials, broadcasters, sponsors and politicians.

UEFA has made a request for exemptions to be applied to staff and commercial partners to enable them to deliver the final rounds as per their contracts. But a key concern for UEFA is also allowing fans to attend from other countries.

UEFA clarified the discussion with the UK government saying it “is delighted that the capacity at Wembley will go up to at least 50% for the knock-out round matches.

“At the moment, we are in discussions with the local authorities to try to allow fans of the participating teams to attend the matches, using a strict testing and bubble concept that would mean their stay in the UK would be less than 24 hours and their movements would be restricted to approved transport and venues only.”

Government fears are that changing the laws for visiting officials would be too controversial at a time when Britons have to face strict quarantine regimes when returning from travelling abroad. The leak and positioning of the argument by UK government could be viewed as a PR move towards shifting the blame towards UEFA and a softening of the political blow if the finals were ultimately moved.

Should a move of the finals take place the obvious new host looks like Budapest where Hungarian rules would allow a full capacity venue. Hungary will also have no restrictions on travelers from the Schengen zone from next week.

It is a hot issue for Boris Johnson and his government. Johnson is reported as favouring the exemptions and the creation of a special fan bubble. He is expected to give his support to a home nations 2030 World Cup bid and having a major final removed from England would not be a good look for that campaign.

UEFA said: “We understand the pressures that the Government face and hope to be able to reach a satisfactory conclusion of our discussions on the matter.”

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