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Soccer-UEFA has contingency plan for London-scheduled Euro 2020 final

·3-min read
FILE PHOTO: Euro 2020 - Group D - England v Croatia

By Simon Evans

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) -UEFA has a contingency plan to replace Wembley as host stadium of the Euro 2020 final unless Britain agrees to exempt travelling foreign fans from 10-day quarantine rules, the European soccer governing body said on Friday.

Tournament organisers have been in negotiations with the UK government since it postponed plans to end COVID-19 restrictions on June 21 because of the rapid spread of the more infectious Delta variant.

The London stadium is scheduled to host the final of the competition, which is taking place in 12 cities across the continent, on July 11, as well as both semi-finals over the preceding days.

"There is always a contingency plan but we are confident that the final week will be held in London," UEFA said in a statement.

The Times newspaper reported on Friday that Budapest was the alternative venue being considered if Wembley was not able to accept travelling supporters.

A spokesman for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "We continue to look forward to hosting the semi final and the final here at Wembley."

While it would be a major surprise if UEFA took the unprecedented step of moving a major final at such a late stage, Budapest is hosting its four Euro 2020 games in full stadiums, having sold tickets to Hungarian fans who have been vaccinated or visiting fans with proof of negative COVID-19 tests.

The Hungarian capital also offered itself as an emergency venue for a number of Champions League matches last season when coronavirus restrictions caused complications elsewhere.

"The Hungarian organisers focus on hosting the four Budapest matches," a spokesman for the Hungarian Football Federation (MLSZ) told Reuters.

"However ...MLSZ stands ready to host any high-level football event."

UEFA said discussions with authorities in London centred on allowing fans of participating teams to attend matches "using a strict testing and bubble concept that would mean their stay in the UK would be less than 24 hours and their movements would be restricted to approved transport and venues only."

UEFA said it understood the pressures the UK government faced. It hoped discussions would reach a "satisfactory conclusion" and was delighted that capacity at Wembley was scheduled to go up to at least 50% for the knockout round matches.

Under current regulations in England, fans travelling from countries on the government's amber list must quarantine for 10 days on arrival, making it difficult for them to fly in for games.

Outside of the three British teams -- England, Scotland and Wales - all other competing countries are on the amber list, except for Turkey which is on the stricter red list. Those arriving from red list countries are required to spend 10 days in a managed quarantine hotel.

The UK government has agreed to increase capacity at Wembley to 50% for the knockout stage, meaning crowds of 40,000 rather than the group stage limit of 22,500.

Wembley will also host two round-of-16 matches with the second one, on June 29th, having a 50% capacity.

As well as access for foreign fans, UEFA is also keen that sponsors and VIPs from outside the UK can avoid quarantine.

"No decisions have been taken but we continue to look forward to putting on the semi-final and final at Wembley and we are working closely with UEFA," said Johnson's spokesman.

(Reporting by Simon Evans; editing by John Stonestreet and Pritha Sarkar)

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