Next month Uefa will make a decision on venues for last summer’s rescheduled tournament, with Britain standing by if they choose to move it to one country.
The original plan was for the 2020 tournament to be played across the continent in a celebration of its 60th anniversary and this is still the governing body’s preferred option. However, Uefa will have to weigh the issues surrounding the health risks and costs of greater cross-border travel for teams, officials and supporters during a Covid-19 pandemic against the potential problem of committing to holding all the games in one country which could suffer a spike in cases, not to mention the difficulty of accommodating 51 matches and 24 teams at short notice.
Having sold tickets well in advance, Uefa are naturally keen to see games played in front of as many spectators as possible.
The most likely scenario is that there could be fewer host countries, and that England could take up some of the slack due to the quality and size of its grounds and training facilities, the success of its vaccination programme and the Government “roadmap” which envisages stadia will again be open to supporters by then.
But it seems unlikely any Yorkshire stadia would be in a position to take part in the competition at such short notice.
Leeds United are committed to relaying their pitch this summer after the problems at Elland Road this season. The playing surface became so bad around the turn of the year that the Whites dug it up and put in a temporary surface but the short turnaround has led to problems with that too, so the plans to address the matter properly will have to take precedence over hosting international football when the season draws to a close.
Elland Road hosted games at Euro 96, and was the venue for England’s final warm-up game before the last World Cup.
Sheffield United also have plans to relay their pitch when the season finishes which is likely to put the county’s other Premier League ground out of the running too.
Bramall Lane is not only a historic international venue – it first hosted England in 1883 – but also a modern one, having welcomed England Under-21s as recently as 2018. It is a venue for October/November’s Rugby League World Cup and, along with Rotherham United’s New York Stadium, for next summer’s Women’s European Championships football.
For many years, Hillsborough was Yorkshire’s go-to venue for showpiece football events, hosting the 1966 World Cup and 1996 European Championships, the only two major men’s tournaments to take place in this country, as well as 27 FA Cup semi-finals. It was one of the proposed venues for the country’s failed 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids.
But with the Owls having spent the last 21 years outside of the Premier League, they have not kept up with the investment needed to keep the ground up to exacting modern standards, and getting it up to scratch within such a short time-frame would almost certainly be beyond them.
Middlesbrough’s Riverside hosted international football when Wembley was being rebuilt in the early noughties, but suffers from being in the shadow of Newcastle United’s St James’s Park and Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, both believed to be under consideration as possible venues if needed.
Huddersfield Town, Rotherham, Doncaster Rovers and Hull City all have well-equipped modern grounds but all are below the minimum 30,000 capacity which was an initial requirement to host group games. Under the roadmap, the early days of the tournament could only be played in front of quarter-capacity crowds, capped at 10,000, with full stadia allowed no earlier than June 21, day 11 of the tournament and the day before England’s final group game, against the Czech Republic at Wembley.
Following some test events in April, the final and with some rescheduling possibly the penultimate round of Premier League fixtures are due to be played in front of limited crowds, along with the Football League play-off finals.
London, Glasgow, Dublin, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, St Petersburg, Bilbao, Munich, Budapest, Baku, Rome and Bucharest were originally selected as venues but although Uefa said in January this remains the plan, they added “all parties recognise the need for flexibility around decisions to be made on the arrangements for the tournament” and an executive committee member was quoted last month by an Italian radio station saying “Euro 2020 only in England is a possibility”.
England was already earmarked for the most prominent role in the competition, with Wembley hosting all England’s group matches, plus both semi-finals and the final. It will also stage a last-16 tie which had been due to be played in Brussels, only for the stadium to not be completed in time.
Host associations have been given until April 7 to submit plans for the number of supporters they would be able to accept in stadia under different scenarios. The group and last-16 games at Glasgow and Dublin are said to be at risk if their parliaments are unable to give assurances about a June return of fans.
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