Wembley, Bucharest target Euro capacity upgrades, Bilbao claims compensation

The Football Association (FA) is said to be in talks to boost Wembley Stadium’s capacity to 40,000 for the knockout stages of UEFA Euro 2020, while Bucharest has been given the green light to upgrade its capacity and Bilbao has claimed a compensation agreement for the controversial loss of its hosting rights.

After a one-year postponement due to COVID-19, Euro 2020 finally gets underway later today (Friday) as Italy take on Turkey at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Around 14,000 fans are expected at tonight’s game after the Italian Government in April committed to having at least 25% capacity at the 72,000-seat Olimpico for its four scheduled Euro 2020 games.

FA seeking Wembley boost

As the main venue for the tournament, Wembley is due to host three group stage matches at Euro 2020, as well as two Round of 16 fixtures, the two semi-finals and the final. Its first match will be England versus Croatia on Sunday.

Wembley is currently due to welcome 22,500 fans for the three group stage matches, with the potential for this to increase for fixtures in the latter stages of the tournament. The BBC has reported that the FA and the UK Government are discussing a plan for 40,000 fans to be admitted for the knockout stages, regardless of whether current COVID-19 restrictions are eased as scheduled.

While nothing has been finalised, UEFA, European football’s governing body, must receive any proposals in the coming days. Earlier this week, it was revealed that COVID-19 vaccine certification will be introduced for fans attending Wembley’s group stage matches.

Wembley’s three group stage matches will see COVID certification used for the first time at a sporting event in the UK. UEFA confirmed that supporters will be required to show proof of full vaccination (with the second jab received at least 14 days beforehand) via the NHS app or a negative lateral flow test within the previous two days. This will apply to all ticket holders aged 11 and older.

The UK Government has set June 21 as the provisional date when all COVID-19 restrictions can be lifted and venues can operate at full capacity. Sporting events in England have been able to go ahead with limited capacity since May 17.

Arena Naţională approved for 50% capacity

Copenhagen’s Parken Stadium was yesterday cleared to welcome up to 25,000 fans for matches at the European Championships after the Danish Government eased COVID-19 restrictions in the country.

The stadium’s capacity limit had previously been set at 15,900. The new 25,000 limit will come too soon for Copenhagen’s opening Euro 2020 match between Denmark and Finland on Saturday, but Denmark’s matches against Belgium on June 17 and Russia on June 21, as well as a Round of 16 fixture on June 28, will be able to go ahead at the increased capacity.

Amsterdam (Johan Cruijff ArenA), Bucharest (Arena Naţională), Copenhagen and Glasgow (Hampden Park) in April confirmed to UEFA capacities of 25%-33%, with Amsterdam, Bucharest and Copenhagen keeping open the option to raise their capacities, depending on the development of their mass testing programmes and general health conditions.

Bucharest is due to host three group matches, plus a Round of 16 encounter. While capacity limits at Arena Naţională will remain at 25%, or around 13,000 fans, for the group games on June 13, 17 and 21, attendance could potentially double for the knockout match on June 28. The Libertatea newspaper said the Romanian Government has given the green light for 50% capacity, or up to 27,000 spectators.

Bilbao claims UEFA compensation deal

UEFA’s insistence that host cities guarantee fan attendance for the rescheduled Euros has caused controversy. In April, Munich retained its hosting rights to Euro 2020, with Bilbao and Dublin being dropped as host cities and their games reassigned to Seville, London and Saint Petersburg.

UEFA announced the decision following an Executive Committee meeting, settling on a final plan for a tournament that has been hit with substantial logistical challenges through COVID-19. Rome’s commitment to fan attendance left Munich, Bilbao and Dublin to confirm their plans, with the latter two cities having been at most risk.

German authorities ultimately confirmed that Munich’s Allianz Arena would be able to host its four games with a minimum of 14,500 spectators. Munich was therefore confirmed as a host venue for the championship, but both Bilbao and Dublin were dropped.

A statement published ahead of the April 23 announcement by local authorities in Bilbao said that UEFA had removed the city’s San Mamés stadium from the hosting plan for Euro 2020. The four matches initially scheduled to take place in Bilbao, were moved to the Estadio La Cartuja in Seville.

UEFA said the hosting of these matches was supported by the Autonomous Community of Andalusia, which confirmed its intention of allowing spectators at 30% of the stadium capacity of around 60,000 for the three Group E matches and a Round of 16 match.

Bilbao authorities had warned of legal action against UEFA over the removal of its games, but Mayor Juan Mari Aburto today announced that a settlement agreement had been reached. Aburto said UEFA has agreed that Bilbao will host the 2024 Europa League and 2025 Women’s Champions League finals, along with being granted financial compensation.

“We said that we were going to defend the interests of the Bilbao headquarters from the moment UEFA broke the contract unilaterally,” Aburto said, according to Spanish newspaper Marca.

“We have worked in two directions, on the one hand for financial compensation and to take into account that Bilbao is an attractive city for holding new events. We can say with great satisfaction that UEFA will compensate Bilbao with €1.3m (£1.11m/$1.58m) and that we will host two relevant and impactful finals in 2024 and 2025.”

Image: Wembley Stadium