UEFA has today (Friday) confirmed that it has a contingency plan in place but remains confident that Wembley Stadium will retain its hosting rights to the knockout stages of Euro 2020.
European football’s governing body responded after a report in The Times suggested that the UK Government will agree to UEFA demands to waive quarantine restrictions for thousands of fans and VIPs seeking to attend the latter stages of the ongoing tournament.
On Monday, the Government announced that Step 4 of its roadmap out of lockdown would be delayed by up to four weeks due to rising cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19, with the Wimbledon tennis finals and Euro 2020 matches at Wembley to go ahead at increased capacity as part of the ongoing Events Research Programme.
The Government had announced in February that June 21 would be the earliest date to enter Step 4 of the roadmap, which would see no legal limits on social contact. Step 3 came into effect in mid-May and allows large outdoor events to go ahead with up to 10,000 people or 25% seated capacity, whichever is lower.
Step 4 will no longer come into effect on June 21 and has been delayed by up to four weeks to July 19. Despite the delay of England’s full reopening, pilot events for the wider return of fans will continue to go ahead.
Wembley staged its first Euro 2020 match on Sunday as England beat Croatia 1-0 and the stadium will continue to operate at around 22,500 capacity for England’s group matches against Scotland today and Czech Republic on June 22.
Wembley’s first Round of 16 match on June 26 is also set to go ahead with this capacity but around 40,000 fans will be permitted thereafter. This will mean that Wembley will be around half full for its second Round of 16 fixture on June 29, as well as the two semi-finals and the final.
However, with the exception of England, Wales and Scotland, every competing team at Euro 2020 is on the Government’s amber list concerning travel restrictions. Turkey is on the red list, and up to 10 days self-isolation is currently required for people entering England from amber and red destinations.
This would impact on overseas fans travelling in for the tournament’s latter stages, as well as UEFA VIPs. UEFA is believed to have Budapest’s 68,000-seat Puskás Arena as a backup venue for the semi-finals and final should an agreement not be reached with the UK Government over quarantine exemptions.
Puskás Arena is the only Euro 2020 venue currently operating without capacity restrictions, with 55,662 fans watching Portugal defeat Hungary 3-0 in the stadium’s opening group game on Tuesday. In a statement today, UEFA said: “UEFA is delighted that the capacity at Wembley will go up to at least 50% for the knockout round matches.
“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.
“We understand the pressures that the Government face and hope to be able to reach a satisfactory conclusion of our discussions on the matter. There is always a contingency plan but we are confident that the final week will be held in London.”
Image: Wembley Stadium