With rising cases of coronavirus across some countries in Europe, Sky Sports News’ chief reporter Bryan Swanson looks at the impact it could have on this summer’s UEFA European Championship.
What’s the latest?
In June 2012, UEFA president Michel Platini proposed a “tournament of travel” but, nine years on, the Covid-19 pandemic continues to raise more questions than answers.
Some 12 countries are set to host matches between June 11 and July 11 but each of them are experiencing varying levels of infection and cases, and varying progress in their vaccine rollouts.
It is a hugely uncertain time and football knows it is insignificant compared to the tragic loss of life that is still ongoing in Europe, and around the world.
It remains possible, therefore, that not all of the 12 host countries could host fans in stadiums.
Has any country been ruled out of hosting Euro 2020?
Not one of the 12 host cities have declared itself unable to host supporters, but the deadline is looming for a final answer.
UEFA says there needs to be some fans in each stadium, even in the ever-changing landscape of the virus, so they may decide to move games to other countries if fans cannot be present.
In January, The Times reported that only home fans are expected to be allowed into group matches and a “very limited” number of travelling supporters will be permitted for the latter stages of the tournament.
That surely remains an option but Football Association officials in England are still awaiting government guidance.
UEFA stresses it is for each country’s government to determine its border policies and any travel restrictions. So, as far as England fans are concerned, all roads lead to 10 Downing Street for a final decision.
Will England stage more games?
At the moment, Wembley Stadium will host seven matches including the semi-finals and the final.
The government is more than willing to stage more, but it is still too soon to say whether any additional games will be picked up by countries unable to make assurances over fan numbers. Nobody has asked and it is not something that has been actively pursued by the FA.
UEFA officials insist there is “no chance” the competition will be hosted in a single country, and UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has said “10 or 11 countries” will be used, even if one has to pull out.
The Metropolitan Police has told Sky Sports News it is “continuing to develop policing plans” and officers remain in “close contact’ with the event organisers in case England ends up hosting more matches.
What about Scotland and the Republic of Ireland?
Hampden Park in Glasgow and the Aviva Stadium (Dublin Arena) are each scheduled to host four games. UEFA is awaiting guidance from each association, based on their government advice, before a final decision is made.
It is no secret that UEFA officials are anxious about whether they will be able to host supporters. And the potential for England to step in and host Scotland games will cause a political headache for Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
She insists the Scottish government are “absolutely intent” on hosting their games in June.
Meanwhile, in February, Football Association of Ireland (FAI) chief executive Jonathan Hill said: “We are committed to the hosting of our four games and we will have fans in the stadium – it’s just a question of how many.”
Who is due to play where?
England have three group games at Wembley, Scotland have two group games at Hampden and one at Wembley, while Wales have two group games in Baku, Azerbaijan and one game in Rome.
Republic of Ireland did not qualify but Dublin will host games involving Poland vs Slovakia, Sweden vs Slovakia, Sweden vs Poland and a Round of 16 match.
Who has the final decision?
Each government has ultimate control over its border. In the UK, the Global Travel Taskforce, led by the Department for Transport, will make recommendations on international travel by April 12.
The taskforce is aimed at “facilitating a return to international travel as soon as possible while still managing the risk from imported cases and variants of concern”.
As of March 24, if you are travelling to England you must either quarantine in the place you are staying or in a managed hotel for 10 days. In addition, 35 countries outside of Europe are on a ‘red list’, including the UAE.
Only British or Irish Nationals, or those who have residence rights, are allowed to enter the UK after travelling from countries on the banned list. Travel to or from Scotland ‘without a reasonable excuse’ is currently prohibited by law.
The Irish government advises against all non-essential international travel and all travellers coming into Ireland must complete a COVID-19 passenger locator form and provide evidence of a negative or ‘not detected’ result from a PCR test carried out no more than 72 hours before arrival, unless exempt.
Wales is not a tournament host but, for travelling fans, the Welsh government has strict entry rules on all travellers from outside the UK, Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.
UEFA, as a competition organiser, clearly wants as many supporters as possible at its games but it cannot overrule the law of each land.
When is the UEFA deadline?
UEFA’s administrative deadline for host cities to submit their plans over the number of fans remains April 7.
A UEFA Executive Committee meeting takes place on April 19, where a final decision must be formally approved. UEFA Congress is then on April 20.
Speaking at a charity match in Croatia on March 14, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said: “The ideal scenario is to play the tournament in the original 12 venues but, if that is not possible, then it will go ahead in either 10 or 11 countries if one or more of the venues cannot meet the required conditions.
“We have several scenarios, but the one guarantee we can make is that the option of playing any Euro match in an empty stadium is off the table. Every host must guarantee there will be fans at their games.”
What’s the latest on tickets?
An “unprecedented” number of applications were made for tickets with more than 28 million requests – double the figure for EURO 2016 – and UEFA has said: “At the moment, there are no tickets on sale.”
Further information about potential future ticket sales will be available next month, which means April is set to be a defining month for this summer’s European Championship.