The Puskás Aréna in Budapest – Photo: wikipedia

Decision looms on go-ahead for games

Covid crunch time for Euro 2020 host nations

The 12 national football associations that are due to host the delayed Euro 2020 tournament from June 11 to July 11, including Hungary, have submitted their plans for fan attendance by an April 7 deadline, and organiser UEFA is expected to make a final decision on the approved cities at an executive committee meeting on April 19.

UEFA is keen to have as many fans inside venues as possible and could reject cities that cannot provide guarantees on supporter attendance. As well as Budapest, the other cities selected to host matches are London, Glasgow, Dublin, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, St Petersburg, Bilbao, Munich, Baku, Rome and Bucharest. Bilbao looks likely to drop out because of the coronavirus health situation.

For each country’s games to go ahead they are required to guarantee fan presence. Hungary has yet to make public its plans to welcome supporters for three group games and one last-16 game at Budapest’s rebuilt 68,000-seat Puskás Aréna. The country has started a gradual easing of societal restrictions now that a quarter of the almost 10 million population has been vaccinated.

The Aréna welcomed 15,180 fans for Bayern Munich’s 2-1 UEFA Super Cup victory over Sevilla in extra time last September. Since then, the coronavirus pandemic that has delayed Euro 2020 for 12 months has led to travel restrictions and emptied football stadiums across Europe. Some UEFA Champions League club games that were barred in England and Germany were switched to an empty Puskás Aréna.

Fears over the Irish capital Dublin hosting Euro 2020 games have grown after the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) acted on guidance from the Irish government over Covid restrictions, and said: “it is not in a position at this point to provide assurances on minimum spectator levels at the UEFA 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 Dublin LOS (Local Organising Structure) team, including government, will continue to discuss all issues with UEFA on an ongoing basis.”

Dublin’s Aviva Stadium is due to stage three group games and one last-16 tie.

The Scottish government has given approval for 12,000 supporters – just under 25 percent of Hampden Park’s 51,866 capacity – to attend Euro 2020 matches. Scotland are set to start against the Czech Republic at Hampden on June 14.

The national stadium is also scheduled to host Croatia’s Group D meeting with the Czechs four days later, followed by Croatia versus Scotland on June 22 and a last-16 game on June 29.

The championship is Scotland’s first appearance at a major finals since 1998.

It is understood that Glasgow’s plans will work on the basis of fans being allowed inside with strict adherence to the two-metre social distancing rules. A decision on whether there will be a Fan Zone in the city will be made at the end of April.

Fears continue for other host cities as a third wave of the pandemic threatens mainland Europe, with Germany and France in particular seeing dramatic rises in case numbers. Germany is yet to give an indication of the number of fans that could be permitted, following a rise in coronavirus case numbers. The Allianz Arena, home to European and German club champions Bayern Munich, has a capacity of 70,000 and is due to host three group games and a quarter-final.

The tournament is due to begin in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico on June 11, when Italy faces Turkey. According to the Italian federation FIGC, the government “will identify the best solutions” to allow fans to attend the three group games and one quarter-final. No number has yet been specified.

The Dutch authorities have announced plans to enable 12,000 fans to attend matches at Amsterdam’s Johan Cruijff Arena, capacity 54,000, which will stage three group games and one last-16 game.

“Depending on developments surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic in June, there is a chance that more fans will be allowed inside the stadium,” the Royal Netherlands Football Association said.

Wembley, London, with a capacity of 90,000, is set to host the Euro 2020 final on July 11 among its seven games – along with both semi-finals, one last-16 game, and all three of England’s group games.

The British government has said up to 10,000 spectators will be permitted inside English grounds from mid-May, and unlimited numbers from June 21.

The English Football Association also says it is prepared to host any additional games that cannot take place elsewhere, having already picked up extra matches originally allocated to Brussels. The Belgian capital was ruled out because a planned new stadium would not be ready.

Denmark will allow “at least 11,000 to 12,000” fans to attend Euro 2020 matches at Copenhagen’s 38,000-capacity Parken Stadium, which is set to stage three group games and one last-16 game.

The Danish culture ministry said: “We will look at whether there can be even more spectators in the Parken if health conditions allow. It may be necessary to close to spectators if there is a spread of infection, so it will be unjustifiable from a health point of view to allow spectators to the matches.”

Russia expects to allow fans to attend the four games it is hosting at the 68,000-capacity Krestovsky Stadium in St Petersburg, which will host a quarter-final in addition to three group games.

The Russian committee’s director, Alexei Sorokin, said he believed matches could be played “with the minimum of possible restrictions”. He added: “We already have an agreement to fill the stands to 50% capacity. We are working to welcome foreign supporters and this has not been rejected by the authorities.”

Azerbaijan’s Olympic Stadium in the capital, Baku, which can hold 69,000 fans, is scheduled to oversee three group games in all, along with a quarter-final. While the Azerbaijan Grand Prix from June 4-6 will be held behind closed doors, there is yet to be a decision on Euro 2020 matches.

The Romanian Government plans to welcome 13,000 spectators at the National Arena in Bucharest. Set to stage a senior men’s major international tournament for the first time, the 54,000-capacity stadium is to host three group games and one last-16 game.

Minister for Sport Eduard Novak said: “We have the historical chance to be part of a large sporting event and to demonstrate that we can honour our obligations to the highest standards of organisation and health safety.”

Bilbao in Spain had initially said it was ready to stage Euro 2020 games at the San Mames stadium at 25 percent capacity (about 13,000 supporters), as long as coronavirus rates dropped to levels accepted by the regional health authorities.

However, the Spanish football federation said this week that the Basque government’s conditions were “impossible to meet” in time for the start of tournament on June 11 and it would therefore be unable to hold matches with spectators.

Euro 2020 is being hosted in several nations as a one-off event to celebrate the 60th “birthday” of the competition. The 24 finalists are:

Group A: Turkey, Italy, Wales, Switzerland

Group B: Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Russia

Group C: Netherlands, Ukraine, Austria, North Macedonia

Group D: England, Croatia, Scotland, Czech Republic

Group E: Spain, Sweden, Poland, Slovakia

Group F: Hungary, Portugal, France, Germany

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