Four nations offer neutral venue hubs to UEFA

European football’s governing body UEFA has announced Poland, Hungary, Greece and Cyprus could be used as neutral venue hubs for its matches, with a review of its behind-closed-doors stance for games set for later this month.

UEFA and the general secretaries of its 55 national associations met in a video conference yesterday (Thursday) to discuss topics related to the future outlook of UEFA competitions in the light of the current COVID-19 situation.

The 2019-20 Champions League and Europa League Round of 16 resumed this week with matches being played behind closed doors. UEFA last month confirmed that the remainder of the 2019-20 Champions League and Europa League seasons, including the new ‘final eight’ tournaments in Portugal and Germany, would be played out behind closed doors.

The decision from the UEFA Executive Committee came after it announced in June that Lisbon and Cologne will host the finals of tournaments to conclude this season’s Champions League and Europa League.

UEFA is now looking ahead to the 2020-21 campaign and at yesterday’s meeting it was stressed that, in order to comply with travel restrictions and quarantine requirements issued by authorities, some matches may need to be moved to neutral countries/stadia.

Detailed scenarios were presented and UEFA said the four associations of Poland, Hungary, Greece and Cyprus have offered to provide neutral venue hubs, with these countries making some of their stadia available on the scheduled match dates and offering a travelling corridor to the teams to come and play the match without restrictions.

The qualifying rounds for next season’s Champions League and Europa League are scheduled to be played between August 8 and October 1 but constantly shifting guidance on travel restrictions around Europe means they are proving challenging to organise. UEFA has already reduced the qualifying ties to one leg, aside from the Champions League playoff round.

The September international window was also discussed and the difficulties that the national teams will have to face with the same restrictions highlighted. UEFA said: “Close cooperation between all teams and UEFA will be needed to ensure the regular staging of all matches. The possibility of playing international matches at neutral venues cannot be discounted at this stage.”

Leagues around Europe are currently weighing up their options when it comes to returning fans to stadia, with clubs in the German Bundesliga and 2.Bundesliga this week agreeing on a set of measures that would allow some fans to return to stadiums for the 2020-21 season.

Michael Ryan, emergencies director at the World Health Organization (WHO), also warned that it is “very unrealistic” to expect countries with high rates of COVID-19 transmission to stage large-scale sporting events before the end of the year.

Regarding its current stance on fan attendance, UEFA said: “Both UEFA and national associations are aware of the importance of allowing fans back into stadia but the situation in Europe is very fragmented.

“UEFA is constantly monitoring the evolution of the regulatory landscape in the different countries and a review of the situation is planned around mid August to see if the current decision of playing all matches behind closed doors can be at least partially changed.”

Image: UEFA