The twelve countries that will host matches had until Wednesday to commit to UEFA on the partial or total filling of the stadiums. If they fail to do so, the organization of the matches could be withdrawn.
Without a commitment to have the public in the stadiums, it is not possible to host Euro soccer matches. The ultimatum issued in mid-March by UEFA, the governing body of European soccer, was very clear: its president, Aleksander Ceferin, declared that he did not want “empty stands” for the competition, which will take place from June 11 to July 11 and should, in theory, be played in 12 countries. It is up to the various host countries to present, by Wednesday, April 7 at the latest, their sanitary arrangements for filling the stadiums, partially or totally.
While Romania announced on March 18 that it was counting on a capacity of at least 25 per cent of the audience at the Arena Nationala in Bucharest, the Dutch Federation announced on Wednesday that Amsterdam was hoping to welcome “at least 12,000 spectators” for the four matches scheduled at the Arena Johan-Cruyff, or even more “depending on the evolution of the Covid-19 pandemic”.
The day before, the city of Munich had assured that “it is entirely conceivable and desirable that spectators could be accommodated”, while the Italian government had given the green light to the presence of spectators at the Olympic Stadium in Rome, where four matches are to be held, including three of the national team (Turkey in the opening match, then Switzerland and Wales).
Sanitary conditions required beforehand
The municipality of Munich, which has built up several hypotheses, has nevertheless specified that “the final scenario will depend on the situation of the pandemic in June and July”. Munich will host three matches of the German team (against France on June 15, Portugal on June 19 and Hungary on June 23), as well as a quarter-final.
On the Italian side too, the actual presence of the public is still subject to the establishment of a protocol by the technical and scientific committee that advises the government. According to the Italian Football Federation, the Minister of Health, Roberto Speranza, has asked the experts to define solutions that would allow “a form of public participation compatible with the epidemiological context”.
Denmark plans to host at least 11,000 spectators per game for the four matches scheduled in Copenhagen, although the government reserves the right to tighten the screws if the health situation deteriorates.
In addition, according to the Spanish press, the Spanish Football Federation was to send a document to UEFA on Wednesday outlining the conditions for accommodating 25% of the capacity of the San Mamés stadium in Bilbao, which corresponds to about 13,000 people. “These 13,000 spectators will be able to enter the stadium as long as the perfect sanitary conditions are met, circumstances that today are not met,” says the daily Marca.
Later in the day, the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) issued a statement saying that it “considers it unfeasible to have spectators in Bilbao due to the sanitary conditions set by the Basque government”.
The health conditions required would include a 14-day incidence rate of less than 40 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, an immunity of the population of the Basque Country and Spain that exceeds 60%, an occupancy rate of resuscitation beds of less than 2% in the autonomous region of the Basque Country and a traceability of cases of Covid-19 in the Basque Country greater than 90%. “Targets that are impossible to achieve and will lead, therefore, to the absence of public,” stressed the RFEF.
New deadline “until April 28
Ireland, through a statement of its National Federation, also declared that it could not guarantee, at this stage, the presence of public. It said it had “notified UEFA today, on the advice of the Government, that due to the health situation, it is not currently in a position to guarantee a minimum crowd size for Euro 2020.
Ireland has pledged to keep UEFA informed of any developments on this issue through the local organizing committee, on which the government is represented, but has also stressed that “public health issues” are the most important issue.
In March, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain would be prepared to host more matches than those already scheduled at Wembley – including the semifinals and final – and in Glasgow. According to the press, the English Football Association is counting on a half-full Wembley (45,000) for the semifinals, but Boris Johnson is hoping for a full stadium for the final.
Based on the feedback from the host cities, UEFA had planned to give its final opinion on the organization of the tournament in the next few days. The body finally decided on Wednesday to give “until April 28” to the 12 host cities to adjust their sanitary scenarios and increase the number of spectators expected.