UEFA tinkers with Euro 2020 host cities as pandemic continues

The ongoing pandemic has forced UEFA to shift things around just ahead of the continental soccer tournament scheduled to start in June.

UEFA has decided in a series of venue changes for the upcoming European Championship as a result of the pandemic.

The result is cities such as Bilbao and Dublin are out, while Seville is now in as tournament organizers continue to tinker with the venues in order to accommodate a limited number of fans.

UEFA, who has insisted that the tournament’s 12 host cities welcome fans at a minimum capacity of 25%, moved four games, originally scheduled to be played in the Spanish city of Bilbao, and be moved them to the Estadio La Cartuja in Seville.

The hosting of these matches, UEFA said in a statement on Friday, is supported by the Autonomous Community of Andalusia, which has confirmed its intention of allow spectators at 30% of the stadium’s capacity for the three Group E matches and a round of 16 game.

At the same time, three Group E games, initially scheduled for Dublin, will be reallocated to St. Petersburg Stadium in Saint Petersburg, Russia, which is already hosting three Group B matches and a quarterfinal.

The round of 16 match that was also to take place in Dublin has be moved to London’s Wembley Stadium.

“We have been working diligently with the host associations and local authorities to ensure a safe and festive environment at the games and I am really pleased that we are able to welcome spectators at all matches for a celebration of national team football across the continent,” said UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin.

The 24-team tournament, postponed from last summer because of COVID-19, kicks off June 11 in Rome. The final will be played on July 11 in London.

The final could feature a full capacity crowd of 90,000, English officials said, although a decision will be made closer to the start of the tournament.

“We would obviously love the final to be full, if the authorities were to allow that. From our perspective, we think that 50% might be more realistic at the moment,” FA chief executive Mark Bullingham told reporters. “But if the situation improves, and the authorities allow, we would love the final to be full. We want as many fans as possible to be able to experience the Euros.”

These decisions regarding capacity should affect a limited number of fans given ongoing travel restrictions between countries as infection rates continue to climb in parts of Europe.