Eu­ros un­der threat

12-host for­mat may be scrapped

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Mike McGrath

Uefa’s mem­ber as­so­ci­a­tions and spon­sors fear that next year’s Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship will have to change its 12-host for­mat, due to the dif­fi­cul­ties in travel and stag­ing matches dur­ing the Covid-19 cri­sis.

Eng­land, which has been se­lected for the semi-fi­nals and fi­nal, is not ex­pected to have fans back in sta­di­ums un­til March, while other coun­tries with ma­jor leagues have par­tially full sta­di­ums to pre­vent the coro­n­avirus spread. Travel be­tween coun­tries for the 49 matches is viewed by ex­ec­u­tives as prob­lem­atic, given safety con­cerns nine months out from the tour­na­ment.

Europe’s gov­ern­ing body has al­ready pushed back the fi­nals – the first where it plans to use mul­ti­ple host coun­tries – to 2021 fol­low­ing the im­pact of the pan­demic on foot­ball and last sea­son’s do­mes­tic com­pe­ti­tions be­ing de­layed. It is set to dis­cuss whether the pan-Euro­pean tour­na­ment needs to be scaled back for the safety of sup­port­ers.

Wem­b­ley has been given seven matches but there are also games in Glas­gow, Dublin, Bil­bao, Munich, Am­s­ter­dam, Rome, Copen­hagen, St Peters­burg, Baku, Bu­dapest and Bucharest. Key spon­sors and com­pa­nies di­rectly linked to the tour­na­ment are braced for changes.

The Cham­pi­ons League, Uefa’s elite club com­pe­ti­tion, had its lat­ter stages played in Lis­bon, Por­tu­gal, in a mini-tour­na­ment where matches were played over one leg, rather than teams trav­el­ling to face their op­po­nents.

The Europa League tour­na­ment was hosted in Ger­many af­ter the do­mes­tic sea­son was com­pleted.

Teams stayed and trained in a biose­cure bub­ble when they ar­rived in the host coun­try, rather than com­mut­ing back to their team head­quar­ters as they would nor­mally. Matches were played be­hind closed doors and the fi­nal was seen as a suc­cess given the tour­na­ment was un­der threat ear­lier in 2020.

Sources at two mem­ber as­so­ci­a­tions say con­tin­gency plans have not been dis­cussed at ex­ec­u­tive level but there is an ex­pec­ta­tion that the for­mat of the tour­na­ment will be looked at, given the num­bers of Covid-19 cases across Europe.

The fi­nal four coun­tries play­ing in the tour­na­ment are yet to be fi­nalised, with play-offs staged next month to de­ter­mine who will join the other 20 coun­tries.

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