More than 60,000 fans will be allowed to attend the semi-finals and final of Euro 2020 at Wembley with attendance increased to 75 per cent of capacity, the British government announced on Tuesday.
The matches will see the largest crowds assembled at a sporting event in Britain for more than 15 months, with numbers previously strictly limited due to the coronavirus pandemic.
All ticket holders at Wembley will need to follow a number of strict entry requirements, including having a negative Covid-19 test or proof of full vaccination.
‘Beacon of hope’
There has been no announcement on the outcome of talks between the government, the Football Association and Uefa over a solution to allow up to 2,500 VIPs to attend the final on July 11 but a deal now appears more likely.
“We have worked extremely closely with Uefa and the FA to ensure rigorous and tight public health measures are in place whilst allowing more fans to see the action live.
“The finals promise to be an unforgettable moment in our national recovery from the pandemic,” said British culture and sport secretary Oliver Dowden.
Uefa had stressed there were no plans to take the semi-finals or final away from Wembley, despite the stumbling block of quarantine-free travel, and the president of European football’s governing body Aleksander Ceferin welcomed the announcement of the increased capacity.
“The last 18 months have taught us – both on and off the pitch – how integral fans are to the fabric of the game,” said Ceferin.
“This tournament has been a beacon of hope to reassure people that we are returning to a more normal way of life and this is a further step along that road.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman earlier gave an upbeat message on the issue of the VIP attendance but declined to confirm whether an agreement had already been reached with Uefa.
“We’re looking forward to putting on a fantastic semi-finals and final at Wembley, and will do so safely and securely,” he said.
The Puskas Arena in Budapest had been floated as a potential alternative should the matches not be able to go ahead in London, while Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi also suggested Rome could step in.
He voiced concerns over the increase in coronavirus infections in Britain.
The highly contagious Delta variant, first detected in India, has fuelled a spike in new cases in Britain and forced the government to delay planned reopenings.
The UK government has a difficult path to tread, with any decision to ease the rules for Uefa officials and sponsors likely to prove controversial.
The ability of British people to travel on holiday has been restricted by rules enforcing a strict period of self-isolation or quarantine on their return.
Having hosted all three of England’s group matches, Wembley Stadium in northwest London is also set to host five games in the knockout stages, including both semi-finals and the final.
Some of the biggest events in Britain’s summer sporting calendar, including Wimbledon and international cricket matches, will also go ahead with greater capacities as part of the latest phase of the UK government’s pilot programme to test the return of large crowds.