UEFA will allow fans to return to international matches in October – but have ruled out their attendance at next month’s Nations League fixtures.
As Sportsmail reported on Wednesday, a number of countries were hopeful that supporters would be allowed to attend the forthcoming matches, which meant that England could have faced the prospect of playing Denmark in front of a home crowd.
However, the governing body was keen not to hand any country an unfair advantage and, as expected, have ensured all internationals in September will be behind-closed-doors.
Spectators could be allowed back into Wembley for England’s home matches in October
The Football Association are confident a limited number of fans will be allowed into Wembley
European football’s governing body has though proposed using the Super Cup match in Budapest on September 24 as a pilot match with a limited number of fans allowed inside.
Football Association chief executive Mark Bullingham, who was on a video conference of the 55 member nations on which the matter was discussed, is hopeful that fans will be inside Wembley for England’s three matches in October.
‘We hope by the three home games in October there will be some changes and we would like to get fans into Wembley by then,’ he said.
‘To what level we have to work out with UEFA and government. We are not talking about a full stadium but some level of fans in the stadium.’
Bullingham acknowledged that countries had been pushing for fans to be let into next month’s games.
‘Yes there was (pressure),’ he said. ‘All of us are keen to get fans back – they are lifeblood of football, absolutely critical. There was a lot of discussion on that.
Gareth Southgate’s England haven’t played since November last year because of Covid-19
‘Some countries are in very different circumstances, feel comfortable with having fans back and have got government support.
‘UEFA felt there should be a consistent approach for September and they applied that. The point they made again and again was getting the games happening. Let’s get these games done in September and look at that in October.’
He feels the stance may change in October. ‘There could well be a circumstance in October where you get a different approach from different countries because the pandemic is so hard to predict,’ he explained.
‘There are different situations in the country and I think you have to adapt.’
UEFA will present the outcome of the discussions to their Executive Committee for approval in the coming days.
England haven’t played since their 4-0 win over Kosovo in Euro 2020 qualifying last November
UEFA has staged the finals of both the Champions League and Europa League at neutral venues and without fans in Lisbon and Germany respectively over the past fortnight.
And the opening two rounds of matches in the Nations League, to be played between September 3 and September 8, will now also be in empty grounds with UEFA saying the games will come too early to permit fans inside.
It means Gareth Southgate’s team likely won’t bet at a disadvantage when they play Denmark at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen on September 8.
Denmark and a number of other countries have been allowing a reduced number of fans to watch domestic matches.
Iceland, where England are due to play on September 5, is in lockdown at the moment and is not allowing attendance at football matches.
The Football Association are planning for both games to be behind closed doors and will create a bio-secure bubble at St George’s Park for the players and staff ahead of next month’s double header.
England’s game against Denmark in the Nations League at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen next month will not have fans in attendance
But the Super Cup, the annual fixtures between the winners of the Champions League and the Europa League, could see a limited number of spectators at the 67,215-capacity Puskas Arena in Budapest.
A UEFA statement read: ‘UEFA mentioned that it would be too early to already allow fans into the upcoming UEFA national team competitions matches to be played at the beginning of September and that test match(es) should take place to study precisely the impact of spectators on current medical protocols.
‘UEFA suggested to use the UEFA Super Cup, which will be played on 24 September in Budapest, as a pilot match for which a reduced number of spectators could be allowed in.’
Any behind closed doors decision will include all the opening Nations League games.
The second edition of the tournament gets underway on Thursday September 3, with the meeting between Germany and Spain the highlight.
Scotland are due to play Israel at home and the Czech Republic away in their opening two matches, while Wales travel to Finland on September 3 and then host Bulgaria three days later.
Northern Ireland head to Romania on September 4 and then host Norway, while the Republic of Ireland travel to Bulgaria on September 3 then host Finland.