England were at risk of losing their right to host both the semi-final and final of the 2020 European Championships, but UEFA confirmed on Tuesday that Wembley Stadium will remain the venue for the tournament’s last three games.
The Financial Times noted days ago that UEFA were concerned about the UK government’s restrictions for travellers arriving from abroad.
UEFA were mindful about fans and VIP delegates coming from abroad having to comply with UK quarantine measures and sought exemptions for the thousands that would be affected.
Italy’s prime minister Mario Draghi even tried to snatch the final away from England, suggesting the last game of the tournament should be held in Rome rather than London because of the UK’s rising coronavirus infections.
He said is a press conference: “Yes … I will try to stop the final being held in a country where infections are rising quickly.”
But it appears his words fell on deaf ears as UEFA announced that 60,000 supporters will fill Wembley for the semi-final (on July 6 and July 7) and final (on July 11).
The president of Italy’s football federation, Gabriele Gravina, would go on to play down talk of moving the match to Rome, but Germany put their hat in the ring for the final too. Bavarian state premier Markus Söder said Munich would be ready to host any match if needed.
Nevertheless, it’s great news for England and prime minister Boris Johnson, but those attending will have to adhere to the strict coronavirus regulations – a negative test or proof of full vaccination (two doses received, 14 days before the fixture in question).
UEFA said during all the uncertainty days ago: “We understand the pressures 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.”
That has now rung true, but one of the contingency plans was to have the last three games of the tournament in Budapest if not London.
The quarantine measures that were in places days ago meant that travellers from amber and red list countries had to self-isolate on arrival for several days, but now entry will depend on testing if they’re unvaccinated.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin recently said: “I am grateful to the Prime Minister and the UK government for their hard work in finalising these arrangements with us, to make the tournament final stages a great success in Wembley.”
However, Sky Sports have noted that the UK government are still talking with UEFA over exemptions for additional guests and overseas fans.
UEFA wanted a 24-hour ‘bubble’ in place instead of the mandatory 10-day quarantine (reduced to five days upon a further negative test), but public health has to be the priority – the last three games of Euro 2020 will see the largest crowds assembled at a UK sporting event in over a year.
Wembley’s capacity had been reduced to 22,500 for the group fixtures but will see nearly triple that figure in the coming weeks and FA chief executive Mark Bullingham is excited at the prospect.
He said on the announcement: “It’s amazing how much atmosphere fans have been able to generate so far, so to have three times as many will be fantastic.
“We have always said that fans are the lifeblood of the game, so it’s brilliant that so many will get a chance to see the tournament finale.”
England booked their place in the last-16, topping Group D with seven points from three games. The Three Lions beat Croatia 1-0, drew 0-0 with Scotland and beat Czech Republic 1-0, so they’re unbeaten and yet to concede a goal..
With home advantage in the last-16 clash, England should have an edge on their opponents, be that France, Germany or Portugal.
And if they can progress through the quarter-finals, England will be at Wembley for the semi-finals.
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