Ireland’s playoff in doubt as Slovakia bans sporting events

Slovakian government imposes two-week ban on sporting events due to coronavirus

The Euro 2020 playoff between Slovakia and the Republic of Ireland could be played behind closed doors at the Tehelne Pole Stadium in Bratislava. Photograph: Ciarán Culligan/Inpho

The Euro 2020 playoff between Slovakia and the Republic of Ireland could be played behind closed doors at the Tehelne Pole Stadium in Bratislava. Photograph: Ciarán Culligan/Inpho

 

A decision on whether to play the Euro 2020 playoff between Slovakia and the Republic of Ireland on March 26th behind closed doors, if at all, is likely to be taken over the coming days according to a senior official at the Slovak embassy in Dublin.

Acknowledging that the growing number of cases of the coronavirus in both countries poses a real threat to the game going ahead as originally planned., deputy head of mission, Branislav Pochaba, said: “At the moment we don’t know what will happen with the game, but I think some decisions will be taken soon, probably within the next few days.

“We had the first confirmed case (of COVID-19) a week ago and there been five up until Sunday (that number rose again slightly on Monday) so it is spreading right now and the situation is developing. Every 10 to 20 minutes something else seems to pop up in terms of news (but) there are no restrictions in place so far (in respect of the game). New precautions are being taken but we will see in the coming days.”

Most schools are already closed in Bratislava where the city authorities have shut down libraries and other many other public amenities. Flights between Slovak airports and Italy have been suspended and on Monday afternoon the national government imposed a two week ban on sporting, cultural and religious events.

The measure does not, for the moment, quite extend to March 26th, the date of the Euro2020 qualifier. But with the number of confirmed cases in both countries currently rising and the local association having said it will abide by the recommendation of the public authorities, the prospects for the game going ahead as planned do not look great.

Uefa said last week that it was monitoring the situation and its clear message was that it would abide by the decisions taken by public authorities in host nations. Already a number of domestic leagues have been postponing games or having them played behind closed doors and it has been confirmed that two of this week’s Champions league fixtures - Valencia against Atalanta on Tuesday and the meeting of PSG an Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday - will go ahead without spectators.

Around 2,500 Irish fans are expected to attend the game if it is allowed to go ahead as originally intended with the FAI due to distribute 2,200 tickets to regular fans and officials clubs, leagues and other affiliates.

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