A year after the tournament was cancelled because of COVID-19, we examine the preparation for this summer’s UEFA European Championships and explore what restrictions are in place
Writer: Sean Galea-Pace
The UEFA European Championships is set to return this summer. However, not in the format initially envisioned.
Having been cancelled, along with a plethora of other events during 2020 as a result of COVID-19, Euro 2020 will take place from 11th June until 11th July, 2021.
The tournament was initially billed as a ‘one-off party all over Europe’ instead of taking place in one country as per the norm. Indeed, for the first time in the competition’s entire 60-year history, Euro 2020 is being held across Europe in 11 host cities. These will be Seville (Spain), Glasgow (Scotland), Copenhagen (Denmark), Budapest (Hungary), Bucharest (Romania), Amsterdam (Netherlands), Rome (Italy), Munich (Germany), Baku (Azerbaijan), Saint Petersburg (Russia) and London (England).
The format will be similar to the previous tournament Euro 2016. The top two teams in each of the six final tournament groups will proceed to the round of 16 along with the four best third-placed finishers.
Originally, the plan was for fans to experience and explore a range of different countries and cultures while following their country on their quest for European glory. However, although such plans have been made challenging, we explore the current guidance and UEFA’s plans ahead of this summer’s tournament.
Which matches have been moved and where?
Seville is a new Euro 2020 host city. Originally, there was to be four matches scheduled to take place in Bilbao, but they have since been moved to the Estadio La Catuja in Seville.
However, it is important to note that the venue will only host 30 percent of the stadium capacity. The three Group E matches initially scheduled for Dublin will now take place at Saint Petersburg Stadium. The Round of 16 match that was initially scheduled for Dublin will be moved to Wembley Stadium in London.
Will spectators be able to attend?
Following a break of over a year (with the exception of test events), fans are set to return to the stadiums for matches this summer. Saint Petersburg and Baku have confirmed capacities of 50 percent, while Budapest aims to host 100 percent of the stadium capacity, however, with strict stadium entry requirements for spectators.
Amsterdam, Bucharest, Copenhagen, Glasgow, Rome and Seville are set to fill 25-33 percent of their stadium capacities respectively, while London has confirmed a minimum capacity of 25 percent for its first three group matches and Round of 16 tie. Munich aims to welcome a minimum of 14,500 fans, which will mean around 22 percent of the stadium capacity.
How were the decisions around stadium capacity made?
Each decision was made by each host city. The key indicator was the projection of an improved health situation in their respective host country. Many factors were taken into consideration, such as the local vaccination rollout, plans for reopening the economy and the expected slow-down of the virus as a result of warmer temperatures. In order to make the tournament as safe as possible, UEFA has worked closely with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to adapt the WHO COVID-19 risk assessment tool for Euro 2020.
Can fans travel to a Euro 2020 host country from abroad?
Given the nature of COVID-19, the guidance is ever-changing, and it can be challenging to plan travel to a host city from abroad.
It is important that fans are reminded of border entry restrictions and enforced requirements at the time of travel. It is believed that no exemptions will be made for ticket holders. This could mean the obligation to quarantine, provide a negative COVID-19 test result, a limit on length of stay, etc. In some cases, entry to a host country from abroad may not be permitted at all.
Hungary, Azerbaijan and Russia have put special procedures in place. These are:
• As a ticket holder travelling to Budapest, a fan wouldn’t be required to quarantine. However, other entry requirements such as a negative COVID-19 test would still apply.
• International travel to Baku isn’t allowed for non-residents at all, however, ticket holders who are citizens and/or residents of Turkey, Switzerland and the UK quarter-finalist countries will be able to obtain a visa. They will be eligible for a quarantine exemption, with proof of a negative COVID-19 test result.
• Exemptions for Saint Petersburg ticket holders are also being developed.
What health and safety measures will be implemented in stadiums?
Euro 2020’s main priority is to deliver a safe tournament for all. This can be done by reducing the risk of infection and doing this is a shared responsibility.
Each ticket holder will be assigned a dedicated 30-minute entry time slot to arrive at the stadium. Fans must wear a face mask at all times. Other measures may include temperature checks or COVID-19 rapid tests; however, every stadium will be a bit different.
Despite the restrictions, it is hoped that this summer’s tournament will act as a welcome distraction and give fans a boost. With pubs and eateries now open again, Euro 2020 comes at the right time for hospitality venues that are needing income, while also acting as an ideal time for people to reconnect with friends.
Finally, although not the full capacity injection that a tournament in a pre-COVID world would have enjoyed, tourism in each host city will be expected to increase and provide a boost to each local economy, should restrictions allow.