UEFA TOURNAMENT DEADLINE HAS EXPIRED
With the delayed European Championships appearing closer on the horizon, the planning phase focuses once again on venues and with UEFA’s deadline on potential stadia now expiring, we have a clearer idea of just where fixtures will be staged this summer.
It is bad news for those who wanted to watch a game in Bilbao, as the Basque region has been deemed as not safe enough to welcome supporters and this subsequently means that a handful of fixtures will have to be switched to an alternative venue.
Something that has already happened in Belgium and with Brussels unable to stage a football festival in June and July, England have stepped forward to take on an extra burden of fixtures – one that could further increase due to events elsewhere.
One obvious switch would be the Bilbao based fixtures to also move to England and with the UK’s COVID-19 vaccination programme going ahead at breakneck speed, they would certainly be the frontrunners for such an outcome.
While England may also find themselves on call as far as Dublin are concerned and with the FAI unable to give assurances regarding the staging on their fixtures, it looks as if Irish eyes may not be smiling on Euro 2020.
A bitter blow for the Irish capital should things stay as they are and with little in the way of substantial progress against the pandemic, the Dublin fixtures look likely to be staged across the water instead.
However, the news is much better for Scotland and their supporters, as after qualifying for their first major tournament in 23 years, they will not face the prospect of playing at an empty Hampden Park this summer.
The Scottish government have announced that 12,000 supporters will be permitted to enter the national stadium, and this is where three games - including Scotland's Group D fixtures against the Czech Republic and Croatia and one last-16 game will be played.
That figure equates to approximately 25% of Hampden Park and when compared to Wembley, it will be a far greater percentage that will be initially permitted to watch matches in the English capital. However, that Wembley number could expand rapidly as the tournament progresses.
With the UK pinning everything on a total lifting of restrictions, June 21st is the day in which everyone is working towards and once the European Championships surpass this date, Wembley could operate with a bigger attendance.
Initially 10,000 is the maximum cap for supporters in mid-May and this will be the figure which is permitted to watch the last game or possibly two of the Premier League season. Although, that number will double for the F.A. Cup.
Therefore, Wembley will aim to operate at a 20,000 capacity for any fixtures before June 21st and with some key games being held in the latter stages – none more so than the final itself, it might just be played in front of a sell-out crowd and show that normality is finally returning to sport in the UK.