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Euro 2020 host city Bilbao now at risk of losing its matches as UEFA holds crunch talks


UEFA’s plans for Euro 2020 have suffered a further Covid blow after Bilbao joined Dublin in saying it could not guarantee fans at the tournament this summer.

The two cities are due to co-host Group E in the competition and now the European football governing body may have to relocate the games, with England a potential beneficiary.

UEFA is holding crunch talks today with the host cities to decide on the next move, which could see games reallocated amid the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Bilbao's participation in Euro 2020 has been plunged into doubt by the Spanish FA

Bilbao’s participation in Euro 2020 has been plunged into doubt by the Spanish FA

The Football Association of Ireland announced yesterday that it was unable to offer UEFA an assurance at this stage that it could meet a threshold of 25% capacity at the Aviva Stadium due to public health concerns, plunging its participation into serious doubt.

It had appeared that Ireland was the only one of 12 host nations to be under threat, with Bilbao committing to 25% capacity at the San Mames stadium in the afternoon.

However, last night the Spanish FA, the RFEF, threw Group E into further uncertainty after it accused the local organising committee in Bilbao of misrepresenting its ability to host matches because the Basque region, in which it resides, will not meet the required level of vaccination.

Football Association of Ireland has said it cannot guarantee 25% capacity at the Aviva Stadium

Football Association of Ireland has said it cannot guarantee 25% capacity at the Aviva Stadium

‘It is false that the RFEF has agreed with the Basque government on these sanitary conditions, which are impossible to comply with,’ the RFEF said in a statement, which was reported by Goal.com.

‘Yesterday the set of requirements that the Basque government imposed for the presence of the public in the Euros was received and, from the first moment, they were made to see the impossibility of acceptance by the RFEF.

‘The requirement to have 60 per cent of the population vaccinated in the Basque Country and the rest of Spain before June 14 is impossible to fulfil and will end, therefore, in the absence of the public.

‘Therefore, the decision that UEFA takes once this document has been analysed will not be the responsibility of the RFEF, since we have given notice of it and we have stated this.

Scottish FA has confirmed Hampden Park will host spectators for games in Euro 2020

Scottish FA has confirmed Hampden Park will host spectators for games in Euro 2020

‘The RFEF, based on the principle of equality and in defence of the Bilbao venue, will support this initiative of the Basque government, if these same conditions are also accepted in any of the other cities hosting the Euros, a matter that today we see as unlikely.’

Group E includes, Spain, Sweden, Poland and Slovakia, while Dublin and Bilbao have also been allocated matches in the round of 16.

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin asked all host cities to commit to fans at Euro 2020

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin asked all host cities to commit to fans at Euro 2020

UEFA and the host cities are wrestling with the fallout of the pandemic.

The governing body’s president, Aleksander Ceferin, insisted last month that host cities must commit to some fans if they were to retain their matches.

Sportsmail understands that the local organising committee for each city did indicate it would accommodate at least some supporters, albeit in Ireland’s case, very few. 

However, the threshold has settled at 25% stadium capacity, which the Irish said they could not agree to and the Spanish are now questioning, too.

Italy yesterday committed to fans at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome confirming its participation

Italy yesterday committed to fans at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome confirming its participation

Many cities and countries are have struggled to predict a safe number of fans at the same time as battling a third wave of coronavirus infection.

Britain is well ahead of its European neighbours in vaccinating the country's population

Britain is well ahead of its European neighbours in vaccinating the country’s population

Russia is the most bullish aiming initially for 50% capacity at the 65,000-seat Gazprom Arena in St Petersburg, but hoping to increase that before the final cutoff of April 28.

England is not far behind, hoping to accommodate around 20,000 fans for the initial group games in June and increasing that to 45,000 for the semi-finals and final in July 

If additional matches come to England, they are unlikely to all be hosted at Wembley. The state-of-the-art Tottenham Hotspur Stadium has been highlighted as a potential venue, as has Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium.

However, many clubs, including City, are planning urgent work on their pitches this summer after a shortened close season last time around due to the pandemic.

WHAT EACH HOST CITY HAS SAID

Munich, Germany

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.

Baku, Azerbaijan

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, although no announcement has been made yet. Wales will play two of their Group A matches of Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku. 

Budapest, Hungary

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. No announcement has been made to date.

Bucharest, Romania

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.

Bilbao, Spain

The northern Spanish city’s involvement is now uncertain – again. It 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 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. Only for the Spanish FA, the RFEF, to undermine the city’s position and claim matches would not be able to go ahead with fans.

Amsterdam, Holland

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.

Glasgow, Scotland

Another city originally on the ‘at risk’ list, which now appears to be back in the game. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had said she expected ‘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 Park, where Scotland play two group games.

Dublin, Ireland

The other big unknown. Dublin was considered the shakiest of the 12 host cities by UEFA officials, and so it’s proved. The Irish have said they cannot commit at this stage to 25%capacity at the Aviva Stadium, which leaves its ability to host games in serious doubt. 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 within days.

London, England

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.

Copenhagen, Denmark

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.

Rome, Italy

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.

 

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