Irish fans face being locked out of Kenny's first campaign

Irish fans face being locked out of Kenny's first campaign
 

Ireland’s supporters could miss out on seeing all of Stephen Kenny’s first campaign as Uefa considers declaring the Nations League a closed doors series.

It had already been decided that the September fixtures, including Ireland’s trip to Bulgaria on September 3 and home match against Finland three days later, won’t have supporters and the European governing body are reluctant to give nations unfair advantage for the return fixtures.

Ireland’s four-nation group sees them hosting Wales and travelling to Finland in October before concluding in November away to Wales and at home to Bulgaria.

The FAI had hoped that the lockdown easing would have facilitated one third of the Aviva Stadium capacity (18,000) being open to fans but the government won’t approve that until the Covid-19 case count reduces significantly.

The established fans' representative group, Football Supporters Europe, held a weekend summit with Uefa and later issued a statement to its members.

"It has been confirmed by Uefa to FSE that the closed-door policy for all Uefa matches applies to all club, international and U21 international matches until further notice," said the FSE.

"We understand that September’s Nations' League matches will fall into Uefa’s closed-door policy announced a few weeks back.

"UEFA may decide, in the interests of sporting fairness, that all Nations' League matches for this year are staged behind closed doors to prevent teams having an advantage in the later games.

"We are unsure as of yet if it applies to the October play-offs for Euro 2020."

In relation to this final aspect, the one-off nature of the play-offs means Slovakia will likely be allowed fans into their national stadium for the semi-final against Ireland on October 8. Accordingly, a small portion of tickets for the Bratislava fixture will be allocated for away supporters.

Another complication to the international fixture list could be looming too unless Bulgaria’s Covid-19 case count improves.

A recent resurgence has seen the Balkan nation hike to one of the most affected countries in Europe. Their tally of 45 cases per 100,000 of populations leaves them a long way off joining the green list of nations from which a 14-day quarantine isn’t required. Only nations with a figure of five or less were placed on the list.

New Northern Ireland boss Ian Baraclough admitted that their September fixture against Romania in Bucharest, situated less than 200 miles from Sofia, is in danger of being switched.

“As of this morning, Romania is still an option to play but it may be at a neutral venue,” he told RTÉ on Sunday. “We’re monitoring it day by day.”

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