Keep Euro-2020 in 12 countries or adopt a narrower format?

From the public, a little, a lot, not at all?

While the official kickoff of Euro football must be given in 100 days, on June 11, many uncertainties remain around the continental competition because of the Covid-19.

Already postponed by a year due to the pandemic, Euro-2020 was to be the first tournament organized on a European scale with matches from Dublin to Baku via Copenhagen, Bilbao and Saint Petersburg, before half finals and final scheduled in London.

"The format was already expected to be complex, it is becoming almost untenable with the pandemic," said Loïc Ravenel, scientific collaborator at the CIES Football Observatory in Neuchâtel, to AFP.

Officially, UEFA sees no reason to panic: the governing body of European football is maintaining its initial plans and has only postponed, from March to early April, the time to define "city by city" its health protocol.

In addition to the "bubbles" for teams and the media, now essential, four scenarios are considered: "100% spectators in the stadium, 50 to 100%, 20 to 30% or behind closed doors".

"There is no such thing as a 100% guarantee, because a pandemic always holds surprises. But for the moment, I am very confident about the holding of these events, whether they are the Olympics or other major competitions. . Big changes would have to be made so that this is not possible ", assures the doctor Daniel Koch, former" Mr. Covid "of Switzerland who became the health adviser of UEFA.

"We are not going to get rid of the virus completely. But we have the experience of last summer, with new advantages: many more tests, varied and faster such as saliva tests, a vaccination campaign which has already taken a good pace in several countries, and naturally more people immunized because they have already had the virus. Moreover, in almost all countries the situation is much better than a few weeks ago. "

Except that UEFA does not control health developments or the policies of the twelve host countries, which can at any time prohibit entry into their territory or impose quarantine measures incompatible with the smooth running of the Euro.

European leaders reserved on the 12-country format ...

The Bavarian leader, Markus Söder, whose regional capital Munich is to host the competition, also called on January 20 to "wait and see" how the tournament could take place.

"I personally believe that the starting version, with competition scattered across Europe, is unlikely to see the light of day given the travel restrictions", predicted Dominique Blanc, who chairs the conference in mid-January. Swiss Football Federation.

For him, "the first variant would be to play the Euro in a single country, in Russia or in Germany for example", or even to "fall back on a single large city with enough stadiums to accommodate the six groups", such as London .

... While others boast

Even though the United Kingdom is the European country most bereaved by the pandemic, but also the most advanced in vaccination, the London hypothesis has resurfaced in recent days: the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has said he is ready , Tuesday March 2, to host additional matches than the seven scheduled meetings in London.

"We are ready to host any other matches they want to see play out," Boris Johnson said in an interview with The Sun.

"If there are other matches they want to see organized, we are ready to host them, but for now, it is UEFA that is in charge," he added.

[# Decla🎙] B. # Johnson: "We are already hosts of the Euro since we are hosting the semi-finals and the final. If there is, finally, you know, if the UEFA leaders want that other games are hosted, we are certainly up for that. "


- System Foot (@SystemFoot) March 2, 2021

Adding to the confusion, Budapest and Bucharest arose in recourse by hosting delocalized matches of the Champions League, while Israel offered in mid-February to the European body to host "certain meetings of the Euro".

"This is an opportunity for some countries to boast about their health management, but not a real fallback", relativizes Loïc Ravenel, for whom UEFA is trying a "bet" by playing time.

"Logistically, a regrouping in one place seems inevitable, but it would pose legal and economic difficulties. So UEFA takes the risk of maintaining its project until the end."

For Daniel Koch, the UEFA health adviser, the pan-European format is also "a chance": "If we can not do anything more in a country, there are eleven others in which preparations are already underway", assures he does.

"Whereas if we are fixed on a country and nothing works, it is lost. In addition, dialoguing with several governments makes it possible to compare approaches."

A context that risks sacrificing supporters

Decided in March 2020, the postponement of the tournament to summer 2021 gave hope for a health improvement in the meantime: optimism was still in order last fall, with the general resumption of competitions and the arrival of vaccines.

But since January, the multiplication of Covid-19 variants has cast doubt on the evolution of the pandemic and travel restrictions are once again disrupting sports calendars.

In this context, a "number" of supporters who had "not missed a competition for 20 years" have already canceled their tickets, explains Ronan Evain, general manager of the Football Supporters Europe (FSE) network.

"It is conceivable that some countries will not allow non-resident ticket holders to enter, or that the latter will be authorized via a corridor: special flight, transport by bus from the airport to the stadium, etc."

he explains to AFP.

"But these are not necessarily attractive things for everyone", not to mention more drastic measures: "If we have to be in Hungary on Wednesday and in England on Sunday, it will be impossible to inflict both quarantines".

Daniel Koch asks fans for patience, saying no firm decision will be taken "until April".

With AFP

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