Uefa to cut Dublin from Euro2020 hosts on Monday
Reformat of European club competitions from 2024 is also on the agenda
Uefa’s executive committee will assemble in Montreux on Monday to learn of the finalised plans for the delayed tournament starting on June 11th.
Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin didn’t appear to be as keen on the pan-European concept as his predecessor Michel Platini but the onset of the pandemic last year plunged into jeopardy the ability of all 12 cities to comply with the updated criteria.
Eight did so by the initial deadline of April 7th, confirming their intention to accommodate a minimum of 25 percent capacity, while Rome became the ninth last Wednesday.
Given Uefa lost €100 million from being forced to postpone the showpiece by 12 months, the more associations willing to facilitate reaching their target of 50 percent attendance across the tournament the better.
Bilbao, Munich and Dublin were the three remaining cities afforded extra time to provide these assurances.
The Aviva Stadium was pencilled in for three Group E matches, starting with Poland against Slovakia on June 14th, along with a last-16 tie potentially between England and Germany or France.
It is understood that although the coronavirus landscape in Ireland is gradually improving, the situation is not sufficiently advanced for National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) to meet the demands placed by the European governing body. A 25 percent capacity for Dublin equates to 11,500 fans.
So far, the only roadmap towards reopening stadia to fans is a proposal by Leinster Rugby to undertake a trial of partial attendance of 2,000 for an unspecified fixture in late May.
The submission was lodged with the approval of the IRFU following a government group’s recommendation to implement rapid antigen testing. The FAI are also in talks to conduct a similar pilot project for a League of Ireland fixture.
Even if these test events are given the go-ahead by public health, leaping from 2,000 to 11,500 at the nearby Dublin 4 venue just three week later is considered too extreme of a commitment at this juncture. Ireland has simply run out of time to offer firm guarantees on spectator numbers.
Uefa have been working on contingencies since soundings from the Irish authorities failed to become more palatable over recent weeks.
Such is the stature of the last-16 tie that it was deemed a non-runner last month but Football Association of Ireland chief executive Jonathan Hill, as part of the Local Organising Structure, had been liaising with health officials and Uefa over the weekend in a late bid to salvage the group matches.
Uefa had deferred a decision on upgrading the media facilities at the Aviva until this week and there will be disappointment if the three Group E participants - Poland, Sweden and Slovakia - are unable to use the training bases already assigned in Dublin and Kildare.
They may still travel here if the matches are shifted to England, whose government is willing to accept a late transfer of extra hosting.
Venue inspections have already been carried out on Premier League grounds, including Tottenham’s new stadium, but mainland Europe is also in the mix to absorb the fixtures.
Moving games from Munich and Bilbao into other countries is under consideration too, however the varying levels of Covid-19 in both mean they could alternatively end up in different regions. Seville has been mooted as the back-up Spanish city.
Also on the agenda at the Switzerland summit is the reformat of European club competitions from 2024.
Under the changes sought, Champions League participants will play 10 matches on a league basis, instead of the current six, leading to the top eight from 36 entrants advancing to the knockout stages.
Progression for the eight would also earn them qualification for the following year’s competition, with those finishing from ninth to 24th contesting play-offs to determine another eight to complete the last-16 stage. Overall, the number of Champions League matches will spike from 125 to 225.
More pertinent to Irish clubs is the expansion of the Europa and Europa Conference Leagues. The Europa League will have eight rounds in the 32-team standings with the Conference, due to launch later this year, featuring six rounds before the play-off and last-16 knockout phases