How encouraging to see Uefa masterminding a return of jeopardy to the Euros. Not in the football, you understand – putting four third-place teams through simply further deflates the group stages of an already format-compromised 24-team tournament. But threatening last week to take the final away from Wembley and move it to Hungary unless 2,500 of their dignitaries can swerve quarantine – well, this is the stuff of which perilous thrills are made.
Not that a Budapest final wouldn’t offer something fresh: large numbers of openly racist and homophobic fans who are finally under investigation by Uefa for their conduct thus far during the tournament.
The governing body has sensationally abandoned its high-level probe into German captain Manuel Neuer’s decision to wear a rainbow armband, and seems to be belatedly taking a look at “potential discriminatory incidents” at Hungary games against both Portugal and France .
Honestly, you don’t get into football policing for that, do you? Sad when public eyebrow-raising means you get pulled off the equivalent of an unpaid parking ticket and required instead to waste your time on something far bigger – but I guess that’s life in the governing body’s crack investigations unit.
Anyway, back to the horse-trading over arrangements for the semi-finals and final. What are we to make of this morning’s news that Uefa is suddenly more positive about not having to move the final from London to a place where its gravy train can travel freely?
I am vaguely paraphrasing its statement – in the governing body’s own words, it is “working closely” with the UK government and the FA, and there are “no plans to change the venue”. The optimistic among us would hope Uefa might come to understand that trying to blag 2,500 members of the “football family” through under the elite sport exemption was a bit of a stretch – unless the sport in question was expensing five-course dinners and sex workers.
But the realists among us – ie everyone with any experience of football governance and current UK governance – will be thinking that something rather less palatable is in the offing. Is hosting the final worth further compromising the idea that we’re all somehow in this together, or is the waiving of Covid rules for a bunch of largely parasitic liggers regarded as a price worth paying by Boris Johnson’s government?
It's certainly something to bear in mind as the home nations ponder the somewhat idiosyncratic consequences we're seeing to a positive Covid test for Scotland's Billy Gilmour. As things stand, Gilmour will obviously self-isolate for the next 10 days, but after that things become less immediately comprehensible. Two England players, Gilmour's Chelsea teammates Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell, must also isolate until next week – but no Scotland players are required to.
Frankly it felt quite surprising to learn that any England players had got near Billy Gilmour on Friday – but more understandable once it was explained that the contact occurred in the tunnel after the game. Even so, the idea that no Scotland players came into close enough contact with Gilmour, anywhere from the dressing room to the team base is – in strictly epidemiological terminology – a complete piss-take.
Do look at the pictures of Scotland manager Steve Clarke holding Gilmour's sweating cheeks in the course of embracing him. I mean, it's not often you see the hands, face, space hat-trick in a single instant.
None of which is to call for more players to be shunted into isolation and out of the tournament. (I’m not even convinced many people truly want super-fit athletes who are already in bubbles to isolate unless they’ve actually got the virus.) But the trouble with this, and with any concessions over quarantine arrangements for Uefa dignitaries, is that it’s all a highly visible illustration of the unfairness and disingenuity that now characterise much of the government’s approach to opening up. Or rather, opening up for some but not others.
According to Boris Johnson, his government wishes to make "sensible accommodations" for Uefa. But where are the "sensible accommodations" for people forced to isolate on no pay for happening to sit at a separate table in an outdoor beer garden near someone who tested positive?
Where are the “sensible accommodations” for double-vaccinated people who wish to travel to Malta, which is miles ahead of us on vaccinations and would surely be on the green list, were the green list not a stage-managed fiction?
With Covid set to cause disruptions deep into winter, the UK government should be looking to keep people onside – and the appearance of fairness is key. Otherwise, increasing numbers of people will decide that the most sensible accommodation they can make with government advice is to ignore it. It’s only a game to them, after all. - Guardian