Ban on fans at matches may see Dublin lose European Championship games

Uefa seeking assurances on a minimum threshold for attendance at matches

The Aviva Stadium, at Lansdowne Road in Dublin, which is due to host European Championship games this summer. Photograph: Eric Luke

The Aviva Stadium, at Lansdowne Road in Dublin, which is due to host European Championship games this summer. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Ireland could lose the four European Championship games to be hosted in Dublin this year due to coronavirus-linked bans on spectators, Ministers have been warned.

The games in the delayed championship had been set for June but the Government has been told that Uefa, European football’s governing body, has sought assurances on a minimum threshold for spectator attendances at the matches.

It wants a commitment by April 7th to a goal of allowing 25 per cent of stadiums to be full, but Ireland is understood not to be in a position to tell Uefa that it can currently commit to that level of attendance.

Ministers were told on Tuesday at Cabinet that as a consequence, Ireland could face losing the rights to hold the games.

However, sources said the Irish Government was continuing to work with Uefa to establish if alternative arrangements could be put in place.

Logistical challenges

Preparations continue to be made in order to ensure they may be held successfully, whether with spectators – if ultimately permitted – or behind closed doors.

While Ministers were told that failing to open turnstiles could mean the loss of the games to Dublin, the cancellation would entail significant logistical challenges for the teams concerned and for Uefa, which may prove to be a disincentive to rearranging games.

It is expected that any matches removed from Ireland will most likely be played in England.

Ireland also believes that it is not the only country which faces restricting attendances.

It is understood that officials working in the Department of Sport have argued that Ireland has put on a range of major sports events over the last year without spectators.

Poland, Sweden and Slovakia are set to play three games in Ireland during the championship, with another second-round match also set to be played at the Aviva Stadium.

Different scenarios

The Cabinet was updated by Minister for Sport Catherine Martin and Jack Chambers, Minister of State at the Department of Sport.

Ireland submitted plans for holding the games based on different scenarios, but Uefa wants clarity for ticket holders early on April 7th, it is understood.

The European football governing authority also wants variations on social distancing requirements, such as a decrease in the 2m stipulation.

However, the ongoing risk of a fourth wave of the virus, combined with low overall levels of vaccination in the State, make the holding of mass gatherings like football matches this summer doubtful.

An update was also provided on the business case for a joint bid between Ireland, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales for the 2030 World Cup.

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