Host cities at Euro 2020 are submitting plans to UEFA today on how many fans they hope to allow into stadiums for the tournament this summer – and England and Russia are leading the way, in spite of the coronavirus pandemic.
The European football governing body set a deadline of close of business on Wednesday for the 12 nations staging matches in June and July to confirm their plans.
Cities have been warned that they risk losing their games if they cannot provide assurances on how many supporters will be admitted to stadiums.
Dublin’s Aviva Stadium could yet miss out on Euro 2020 games amid fears over fans attending
The four matches scheduled for the Aviva Stadium in Dublin are believed to be most at risk, raising the tantalising prospect that those games could move across the Irish Sea to England.
Delayed Euro 2020 tournament is due to be held in 12 cities across 12 different countries
As reported in Sportsmail on Monday, it is understood UEFA had hoped to make a decision on cities’ participation this week, but the officials are braced to delay that until mid-April in the hope they can reach agreement with the respective authorities in each country.
However, the body will want some assurances over how many fans may be achievable and when firm commitments can be made. UEFA has major logistical challenges in staging the tournament, not least in terms of ticket allocations, and uncertainty cannot be open-ended.
There appears to be no uncertainty in Russia, which has pledged to half-fill the 65,000-seat Gazprom Arena in St Petersburg, where officials have also said they will look at increasing attendances even further.
UEFA will allow capacities to be increased right up until April 28.
The Gazprom Arena in St Petersburg is ready to host large crouwds at Euro 2020
Similarly, the success of the national lockdown in England and the effective vaccination programme has given the authorities here confidence that large crowds can return to Wembley.
The matches are expected to see attendances increase over the course of the tournament, which spans almost a month in London, with the first of seven fixtures scheduled for June 13, when England take on Croatia in Group D, and the final taking place on July 11.
The government is set to embark on a programme of events from mid-April to identify ways to increase the number of supporters safely. These include 4,000 spectators attending an FA Cup semi-final on April 18, 8,000 at the Carabao Cup final on April 25 and 21,000 at the FA Cup final on May 15.
Wembley is preparing to welcome 45,000 fans for the semi-final and final of Euro 2020
The FA has reportedly told UEFA it will host 45,000 spectators at the semi-final and final of the tournament.
And the FA chief executive Mark Bullingham seemed even more bullish earlier this week when he welcomed the pilot programme.
FA chief executive Mark Bullingham has sounded a confident tone over fans attendance at Euro 2020 at Wembley
‘This is an important first step towards getting fans back, with the end goal of full stadia — hopefully by the end of the men’s Euros,’ he said.
However, hopes have been raised the England could stage even more matches if Dublin has to drop out of hosting the tournament.
Covid infection rates have remained stubbornly high in Ireland despite a national lockdown and the authorities have been reluctant to say publicly that they will allow spectators.
A spokesman for the Irish Department of Sport told Sportsmail: ”At its meeting Tuesday 30th March the Government noted that owing to the pandemic it is not in a position at this point to provide assurances on minimum spectator levels at the UEFA 2020 matches due to be held in Dublin in June.
‘The Government also noted that officials will keep the matter under review and continue to work with UEFA on the hosting of the matches noting Ireland’s track record in the last year in staging major spectator field sports in the areas of football, GAA and rugby.’
The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium has been mentioned as an ideal venue for Euro 2020 games
Even if Dublin cannot proceed there is uncertainty over whether those games would even be staged here.
Two of the matches clash with existing Wembley fixtures and an alternative venue would have to be found. The FA has not been contacted by UEFA about hosting the games and some potential venues, like Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium, are planning to relay pitches and could be unavailable.
Meanwhile, confidence is growing in Scotland’s appetite to host fans at Hampden Park.
The prospect of Scotland having to give up games, which could potentially move south of the border, may have provided a political incentive for the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to give UEFA the assurances it needs.
Confidence is growing for Hampden Park to host spectators for Scotland’s games in Euro 2020
Scotland will host the Czech Republic and Croatia at Hampden Park after its men qualified for a first major tournament since the 1998 World Cup.
‘We are well aware of the deadline and while these are not final decisions for us, I am optimistic we will have matches played here in Scotland with a number of spectators, a reasonably good number of spectators in Hampden for them,’ Sturgeon said.
Denmark is planning on up to 12,000 fans being allowed into the four matches at the 38,000-capacity Parken Stadium. A similar number could be attending games in Romania under government plans for the 55,000-capacity national stadium in Bucharest to be at least a quarter filled.
Italy’s Stadio Olimpico is expected to host around 18,000 – a quarter full – at Euro 2020
Italy is now ready to let fans back into stadiums in time for Rome hosting European Championship games.
Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza informed the country’s football federation on Tuesday that fans can attend the four matches in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico based on protocols from scientific advisors.
‘The willingness obtained from the Italian government is an excellent result that is good for the country, not just football,’ FIGC President Gabriele Gravina said.
Sky in Italy has reported 25% of the 72,600 capacity will be admitted.
In recent months, there has been uncertainty over the position of Bilbao in northern Spain and Baku in Azerbaijan, but Sportsmail understands UEFA officials are now more confident about their participation.
Britain is well ahead of its European neighbours in vaccinating the country’s population
The challenge facing governments and UEFA is nowhere starker than in German, which like other parts of Europe is in the midst of a third wave of coronavirus infections.
The city of Munich says it has submitted updated plans to UEFA.
‘It is of course conceivable and desirable that spectators can be in the stadium for the four games in Munich,’ local authorities said Tuesday.
And yet on Wednesday, Angela Merkel called for a ‘short national lockdown’ to curb Germany’s coronavirus crisis.
WHAT EACH HOST CITY HAS SAID
The Bavarian capital has submitted plans to UEFA, with local authorities assuring the media it is ‘desirable’ for fans to be in the stadium for the four Euro 2020 matches. However, Germany remains gripped by a third wave of coronavirus infection and is set to go back into a mini-lockdown, illustrating the complexity of planning at this time.
Matches in Baku have been threatened twice. Once by the conflict with Armenia in the Nagorno Karabakh region and then by coronavirus. However, while there has been little news of the former Soviet republic’s preparations of late, UEFA officials now appear confident that the games will go ahead in front of fans.
The Hungarian Football Association has been a steadfast supporter of UEFA during the past 12 months and that seems unlikely to change. The Ferenc Puskás Stadium hosted 15,500 fans for the UEFA Super Cup encounter between Bayern Munich and Sevilla in September. It also accepted Champions League fixtures at short notice between Liverpool and RB Leipzig and Atletico Madrid and Chelsea, as well as a Europa League tie between Wolfsberger and Tottenham.
Matches will be played in front of a maximum of 13,000 spectators, representing 25% of the National Arena’s capacity, the Romanian Ministry of Sports announced on Wednesday. Fans will be required to present a certificate to show they have been vaccinated or recovered from Covid.
St Petersburg, Russia
Russian authorities have committed to 50% capacity at the 65,000-seat Gazprom Arena and not ruled out increasing the number of fans before the cut-off date of April 28.
The northern Spanish city was considered one of the venues most likely to drop out of hosting Euro 2020 after UEFA insisted on a commitment to some fans at matches. However, Bilbao’s city hall has told UEFA it is ready to stage Euro 2020 games at the San Mames stadium at 25% capacity – 13,000 fans – if coronavirus infection rates drop below current levels.
The Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB) has said ‘at least 12,000 spectators’ will be able to attend matches at the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam. And even more supporters could attend if the pandemic eases.
Another city originally on the ‘at risk’ list, which now appears to be back in the game. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as said she expects ‘a reasonably good number of spectators’ at Hampden Park for the matches and on Wednesday the Scottish FA confirmed to UEFA that it would accommodate 25% capacity at Hampden.
The big unknown. Dublin is considered the shakiest of the 12 host cities by UEFA officials, with the Irish government insisting last week – and repeating its position this week – that it cannot commit to minimum spectator numbers at this stage. The nature and tone of the Irish government and FA’s message to UEFA on Wednesday will determine if Dublin is given time, or axed from the programme.
London is one of the most solid host cities thanks to a long period of lockdown and high vaccination rates among the population. While the initial matches may be limited to around 20,000 fans – a similar number due to attend the FA Cup Final on May 15 – the FA has reportedly told UEFA it wants 45,000 spectators in for the final and semi-finals.
Denmark is planning on up to 12,000 fans being allowed into the four matches at the 38,000-capacity Parken Stadium, which would see the ground about one-third full.
Italy has confirmed it will admit fans for its Euro 2020 fixtures and is reported to be prepared to allow the Stadio Olimpico in Rome to host 25% capacity in the 72,600-seat stadium. Around 18,000 will be present.