Uefa want overseas fans, sponsors and VIPs to be allowed inside Wembley
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The Government is under pressure to grant controversial quarantine exemptions to tens of thousands of overseas fans, sponsors and VIPs to ensure the European Championship final can stay at Wembley.
Uefa announced proposals for a "strict testing and bubble concept" that would allow fans and dignitaries to spend just 24 hours in London – instead of having to self-isolate for extended periods on arrival.
High-level talks are taking place with ministers after a letter from Uefa told Government its restrictions were too tight. It remains unclear how much Whitehall will be willing to budge on arrangements, but both sides are desperate to avoid the "nuclear option" of moving the game elsewhere.
A relaxation of the UK’s quarantine exemptions would need to be applied given all other nations involved in Euro 2020 are on the amber travel list, with the exception of Turkey which remains on the red list. Under current plans, anyone travelling to London for the semi-finals or final would need to quarantine for 10 days, but Uefa is lobbying to have that removed and replaced by a secure bubble scheme.
Uefa’s ability to also invite media, sponsors, broadcasters and VIPs will also influence whether the final remains in London, or is moved to another country such as Hungary where restrictions are far more relaxed. Unlike for the Champions League final, a compromise agreement appears most likely to allow some VIPs in. Telegraph Sport understands Uefa has written to the Government outlining its requests after ministers announced the final four Euro 2020 matches at Wembley will be played in front of at least 40,000 spectators.
The final four Euro 2020 matches at Wembley will be played in front of at least 40,000 spectators
Uefa said in a statement on Friday that it is "delighted that the capacity at Wembley will go up to at least 50 per cent". "At the moment, we are in discussions with the local authorities to try to allow fans of the participating teams to attend the 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," a spokesman added. "We understand the pressures that the Government face and hope to be able to reach a satisfactory conclusion of our discussions on the matter. There is always a contingency plan but we are confident that the final week will be held in London."
Issues around VIP allowances previously prompted Uefa to opt to hold the all-English Champions League final in Porto rather than Wembley, but Budapest is seen as a more likely option for the governing body if talks were to break down.
However, the chances of a switch still appear remote, with senior figures on both sides recognising the majority of fans will want the final at Wembley.
All the Wembley Euros matches are included in the UK’s extended Events Research Programme which allows for crowds over the usual 10,000 upper limit – and also means every spectator would be subject to tests before and after the game.
However, ministers have so far given no public indication at all that they are prepared to relax quarantine rules, which mean as it stands a supporter coming from an amber list country would need to test negative before departure, isolate for 10 days upon arrival in the UK and provide two negative tests in that time before going to watch a match.
The possibility of a relaxation had looked even more remote in the context of rising infection rates due to the Delta variant of coronavirus, which have prompted the Government to delay the final easing of restrictions until July 19 – after the Euros have finished.
But Martin Kallen, the tournament director, had struck a more positive note recently, telling a Uefa briefing on Thursday: “We are in discussion for the knockout rounds, especially the semi-finals and final, on this question to have also overseas spectators. We are in discussion every day with the authorities and we hope to come to a good conclusion with the English Government.”
Asked if it was realistic that the Government would grant concessions, Kallen added: “I hope so. At the moment it is too early to say it but we have seen some signs that there could be a possibility.
“But it’s too early to give a clear answer, we have still some time on that side.”
Earlier this month a Government spokesperson said there were "no plans to change travel exemptions for ticket holders". “Overseas ticket holders will be able to watch Euro 2020 matches at Wembley but will be subject to travel restrictions and requirements in England and at their place of origin, including testing and quarantining," a statement said. "There are no plans to change travel exemptions for ticket holders."
However, Whitehall sources confirmed ministers are now discussing the issue around fans, as well as Uefa and Fifa officials, politicians, sponsors and broadcasters not having to self-isolate on arrival – despite a potential backlash.
In total, Uefa is likely to want around 2,500 VIPs to be able to travel without quarantining. It is unclear how many fans they would demand but relations between Uefa and Government have been warm in recent months. Telegraph Sport disclosed how Aleksander Ceferin, the Uefa president, held a meeting recently with the Duke of Cambridge to express gratitude over the UK’s role in torpedoing the Super League breakaway.
"We’re still working through a lot of detail with Uefa and the FA," a Whitehall source told Telegraph Sport on Friday. Ministers are understood to recognise the fury amending the law on border restrictions for VIPs could cause while Britons are unable to take holidays abroad.
However, with a home nations 2030 World Cup bid likely subject to Uefa backing, there is said to be willingness on both sides to ensure an agreement is reached to keep the game at Wembley.