Dublin set to lose postponed Euro 2020 games

Ireland’s capital was one of 12 cities selected by Uefa as part hosting of the tournament, which was deferred by 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic
Dublin set to lose postponed Euro 2020 games

A general view of the Aviva Stadium. Dublin was due to be one of 12 host cities for the European Championships - but that is now in serious doubt. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

Dublin is one of three cities set to lose its European Championship hosting rights.

Ireland’s capital was one of 12 cities selected by Uefa as part of a first-ever pan-European hosting of the tournament, which was deferred by 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 51,000-capacity national stadium is scheduled to stage three groups matches and a last-16 tie from June 14 but the cautious approach taken by the State around easing lockdown restrictions has raised doubts about that plan.

FAI chief executive Jonathan Hill admitted last week Dublin would only be retained by Uefa if health authorities permitted spectators back into stadia.

Hill confirmed to delegates on Tuesday that he’d discussed the matter of Euro 2020 with the government’s public health department, without divulging details.

An FAI spokesperson said: “Jonathan Hill spoke to the Government in relation to Euro 2020 on Tuesday as indeed does a range of people from within the FAI and the Local Organising Committee (LOS) on a daily basis to progress the detail around the hosting of the matches.”

It is understood that both Glasgow and Bilbao have also come under scrutiny due to a lack of guarantees around the return of spectators.

Ireland won’t be involved in the tournament taking place in 100 days' times after losing a play-off semi-final last October.

Their conquerors, Slovakia, along with Poland and Sweden, are due to have fans arrive into Dublin for the matches during June.

Uefa will make a final decision on whether to change format in early April.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week expressed a desire to host the 24-tournament in its entirety given their accelerated vaccination programme and a planned gradual return of fans to stadia from May but the English FA and Uefa have downplayed that prospect.

In contrast, the absence from the Irish government of a concise timetable for relaxing restrictions, including the admittance of fans into sporting events, has put the FAI’s involvement in jeopardy. The best that can be hoped for at this stage is partial crowds.

“Yes is the simple answer to that,” said Hill last week when asked if Dublin’s continuation as one of the dozen cities hinged on a change of policy by the State.

“Uefa wants to see fans in all 12 of the stadia and all 12 of the cities. We are planning on the basis that we will have fans in the Aviva Stadium.

“There was a meeting among the chief executives of the federations that cover the 12 cities on Wednesday morning and it’s fair to say UEFA are pushing forward because of the timetables involved. They have real people who bought real tickets for matches and who bought transport and hotels etc. At some point they need to take decisions in relation to the structure of the tournament.

“We have a four to six week period in which to do that. In early April, Uefa will take its decisions. We’d all love to see that but we have to be respectful of the current guidelines.”

International travel compounds the challenge. However, if the restrictions by June make it problematic for fans of Poland, Slovakia and Sweden to fly in, Hill said Uefa would have no issue reselling the tickets to an Irish audience.

He added: “There is clearly a challenge generally for anyone travelling into Ireland, full stop.

“Uefa would accept if the fans inside the stadium were all Irish - be it even 9,000 or 15,000.

“They would be very happy to have Dublin as one of the 12 cities, with everything that it and Ireland brings in terms of its own very singular and unique character within the overall tournament.

“We will need to review very carefully in relation to significant numbers of fans congregating in one place together inside and outside of the stadium. That’s part of the discussion with Uefa”.

Scotland losing their hosting rights for their first major tournament qualification since 1998 would be considered a bombshell.

Their vaccination and lockdown easing is on a different trajectory to that of England. “We’ll see whether or not it’s possible at any point along that road for fans to actually be present to witness (the Euros),” Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said today.

Curiously, the Scottish FA today confirmed that their domestic cup final will take place at Hampden Park on May 22.

Uefa’s regulations require that the domestic federation hand over control to the European body on May 15 ahead of the tournament.

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