The Coronavirus pandemic has ensured that the 2020 European Championships is entirely unique to anything we have ever experienced before in the past. While matches are currently being played across the continent, the initial schedule had the semi-finals and final to be held in the same venue, the Wembley stadium. However, it is now unclear whether this will be the final location.
As reported by the Times, UEFA is considering moving these two games to Budapest, due to the British government’s reluctance to relax the Covid restrictions that have been put in place for overseas travellers from the countries which are currently in the amber list of the government.
WHAT IS HAPPENING?
UEFA, prior to the beginning of the tournament, had decided that Wembley to be one of the eleven venues to stage the matches of the Euro 2020. The stadium in London has already been the venue for England’s 1-0 win over Croatia on Monday and is set to host a derby between the Three Lions and Scotland on Friday.
Additionally, the stadium is in line to host a third group stage game, two round of 16 fixtures along with both the semi-finals and the final, on the 11th of July.
The Wembley in London. (Image Courtesy: Wembley Stadium / Website)
The governing council, however, is considering the option of moving the semi-finals and the finals to another venue due to the Coronavirus restrictions of the British government, which require overseas travellers from the amber list of the government to undergo a 10-day institutional quarantine before being allowed to roam around publicly.
But UEFA has raised the issue with the UK government primarily to secure an exemption for supporters of competing teams to travel to London for the semis and the final next month while the UK ministers are discussing a proposal to exempt UEFA officials, VIPs, and sponsors, and international broadcasters, from the requirement to quarantine for 10 days, with the visitors being allowed to self-release after five days with a negative COVID-19 test after their arrival in the UK.
Wembley previously faced the same issue, when it was denied the opportunity to host the 2021 UEFA Champions League final in the last week of May as the government denied waiving the quarantine rules for the 2500 guests of UEFA.
On Friday, both UEFA and the Government came out to give statements regarding the same. The spokesperson for Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of UK had said, “No decisions have been taken but we continue to look forward to putting on the semi-final and final at Wembley and we’re working closely with UEFA.”
Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. (Image Courtesy: BBC / Website)
UEFA said, “UEFA is delighted that the capacity at Wembley will go up to at least 50% for the knock-out 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.”
WHAT IS THE ALTERNATIVE?
The alternative suggested by the UEFA tournaments committee was to hold the semi-finals and the final at the Puskas Arena in Budapest, Hungary. The stadium, which has a capacity of 67000, has already hosted the group stage game between Hungary and Portugal, at nearly full capacity and can offer the same for the knockout games and the final, when compared to the 45000-capacity offered by Wembley.
Puskas Arena in Budapest. (Image Courtesy: Hungary Today / Website)
Hungary, which is one of the nine countries to exempt the UEFA officials and players from their Covid-19 restrictions since the start of the tournament, is set to lift all border restrictions for travel within the EU from next week, which makes them a viable stand-in option for the semi-finals and the finals, instead of them being held at the Wembley.