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UEFA refuses to rule out moving Euro 2020 games away from Wembley

UEFA refuses to rule out moving Euro 2020 games away from Wembley
© Reuters
UEFA would like overseas fans to be able to fly in and out of the UK within 24 hours using a strict testing and bubble concept.

UEFA sources have refused to rule out moving the Euro 2020 semi-finals and final away from Wembley if overseas fans and VIPs cannot be exempted from strict quarantine rules.

European football’s governing body released a statement on Friday saying it was “confident” the final week would be held in London but pointed out “there is always a contingency plan”.

Budapest is understood to be the first option if the games were switched, with matches at the Puskas Arena currently being played at 100 per cent capacity.

There are no capacity limits at the Puskas Arena in Budapest
There are no capacity limits at the Puskas Arena in Budapest (Bernadett Szabo/AP)

UEFA’s statement suggested it might be possible to admit overseas spectators into London for the final week, using a method similar to that deployed at last month’s Champions League final in Portugal where fans flew in and out within 24 hours.

“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,” the statement read.

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

UEFA is understood to be looking for a slightly different arrangement for VIPs and sponsors – a ‘bubble to bubble’ concept similar to that in place for overseas media where individuals would travel only between designated venues such as the airport, their hotel and a match venue.

It believes this approach minimises the risk of infection.

The British Government confirmed on Monday that the final four Euro 2020 matches at Wembley could be played in front of crowds of at least 40,000 despite the decision to delay the final easing of coronavirus restrictions.

The games will be part of the Government’s Events Research Programme (ERP) which has been running since April and has been used to test various ways to get fans back into venues without the need for social distancing.

Currently, overseas fans coming in from countries on the amber list – which the vast majority of Europe falls within – would have to provide a negative test before leaving their country of origin in order to enter the UK and then strictly isolate for at least five days using the ‘test to release’ scheme, or for 10 days.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport declined to comment on the UEFA statement, but it is understood its ministers and officials are  focused on putting on safe and secure games and are in discussions with UEFA on the detail.

Euro 2020 tournament director Martin Kallen spoke on Thursday about his hopes for overseas fans to attend the final stages.

“We are in discussion for the knockout rounds, especially the semi-finals and final, on this question to have also overseas spectators,” he said.

“We are in discussion every day with the authorities and we hope to come to a good conclusion with the English government.”

Asked if it was realistic that the Government would grant concessions, Kallen added: “I hope so. At the moment it is too early to say it but we have seen some signs that there could be a possibility.

“But it’s too early to give a clear answer, we have still some time on that side.”

Policing minister Kit Malthouse told Sky News: “I haven’t seen the detail of that particular proposal.

“One of the things we are trying to do though is obviously accommodate the Euros as much as we possibly can.

Government minister Kit Malthouse said officials were trying their best to accommodate the Euros amid the pandemic
Government minister Kit Malthouse said officials were trying their best to accommodate the Euros amid the pandemic (Isabel Infantes/PA)

“While much of the concern around coronavirus regulations has been about whether one situation is fair compared to another situation, what we are generally trying to do is make difficult decisions about the path of a virus at the same time as trying to enable the ordinary operation of very special events, like the Euros.

“No doubt the health professionals and the immigration professionals at the Home Office and then the senior ministers who make this decision will take all of that into account as we proceed.

“It’s a great competition, we are very lucky to have it, we are trying to make it happen with as much satisfaction all round as we possibly can, and that will be taken into account in the decision over the next few days.”

Clive Efford, a Labour MP who sits on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee, told the PA news agency: “If they enter the country they cannot be allowed to move freely without precautions.

“They must be escorted to and from the games and anywhere else they may go. I have no objection to special arrangements being made for them to go out to dine and to go sightseeing with strict precautions in place, but they should not be allowed roam around without restriction.”

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