UEFA could extend the deadline for finalising the attendance at the Wembley final of Euro 2020 in the hope it of increasing capacity to a 90,000 full house, if the country stays on track to lift lockdown restrictions from June 21.
While confidence in Britain’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic has been hit in the past week by the emergence of the Indian variant, there is still a hope that London can host a capacity crowd for the showpiece fixture.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has given new cause for optimism after he told Tory backbench MPs, ‘we can see nothing to suggest that we have to deviate from the road map’, despite the troublesome Indian strain.
Could Wembley Stadium host a capacity crowd for the Euro 2020 final in July this year?
Sportsmail understands that the Football Association has until the middle of the first week in June to finalise crowd numbers for the later stages of the tournament, with 45,000 fans currently expected for the final and semi-finals.
However, that decision could be delayed, if there is a prospect that England will be out of lockdown on June 21, so-called Freedom Day, the earliest date from which social distancing can be lifted.
And it would be possible to sell the tickets in a shortened period for the final that is on July 11.
June 21 has been named as the earliest date social distancing will be dropped in England
Memories of Euro 96 have been revived with the chance of fans at Wembley for Euro 2020
‘If you cannot sell 90,000 tickets in a month, you are struggling if you think that clubs can sell tens of thousands in the space of 10 days for cup replays,’ said a source close to the tournament organisers.
Last year, when fans were allowed to attend football matches, Manchester United sold 67,000 tickets for their FA Cup third round replay with Wolves on January 23, 2020, 11 days after the two teams drew 0-0 at Molineux. United won the return 1-0.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden gave an upbeat assessment on the return of crowds
Even so, the challenges of staging a major international tournament during a pandemic are severe for organisers and fans alike.
Thousands of supporters hoping to attend the Euro 2020 semi-finals and final have been discovering this week if they had their tickets cancelled and refunded as a result of the capacity currently expected at Wembley.
Football’s European governing body has had to contact fans because the number of sold tickets exceeds the capacities currently planned.
However, the UK’s situation changes from week-to-week and if government plans on lifting lockdown are achieved it may yet be possible for more people to attend.
Last week, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden was upbeat on the prospect of full houses returning after June 21 and at that stage he did not seen any variants of concern that would prevent a move to stage four of the road map.
Speaking to MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on Thursday, Dowden said he was ‘confident’ capacity crowds would return after that date.
‘We are completely on track at the moment with the road map [and] the vaccination is rolling out as planned,’ he said.
The prospect of capacity crowds in the final stages of Euro 2020could yet be possible
‘I have a single-minded determination to get full reopening from 21st of June. With every passing day I get more confident that we can achieve that.’
Since then, concerns heightened about the speed with which the Indian variant might spread, but after an uncertain few days, there is again growing optimism from No10 that the Indian variant won’t jeopardise plans to ease all lockdown restrictions on June 21, as the vaccine rollout continues apace and ramps up further.
Prime Minister Johnson last night told the powerful 1922 committee of Tory MPs he was ‘even more cautiously optimistic’ it can go ahead. He said: ‘I know there are anxieties about new variants. But we can see nothing to suggest that we have to deviate from the road map.’
On the current timetable, the government is due to announce on June 14 whether the country is able to proceed to step four of the roadmap out of lockdown. That date is almost a month before the Euro 2020 final on July 11.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is again sounding optimistic about lifting lockdown on June 21
Despite recent concerns over the Indian variant, ministers and officials have remained focused on safely returning fans, spectators and audiences to sport and cultural events as soon as possible.
One government source told Sportsmail that it is important ‘to make the most of the summer’ when crowds can watch in well-ventilated, open-air venues and with organisations starved of revenue from ticket sales for over a year.
While the current situation makes it even harder to plan for with any certainty, officials continue to meet on a weekly basis with sports organisations and there is a desire that the Great Summer of Sport should be ready to roll with as many fans as possible, once it is safe to welcome them back.
One Day Internationals and Twenty20 games are proving some of the most popular events
As well as a football, there is also Wimbledon, a mouth-watering schedule of cricket, the British Formula One Grand Prix, Betfred Rugby League Challenge Cup Final and the Open golf. Demand for tickets at most events has been huge.
Cricket is desperate to see fans back in large numbers. Ticket sales have been stunning for England games in particular, and the England and Wales Cricket Board, as well as clubs hosting the matches, are eyeing the calendar anxiously hoping the timetable can be maintained.
England begin a series of T20 matches and One Day International against Sri Lanka on June 23, followed by tours from Pakistan and India.
Meanwhile, Wimbledon is preparing for an online dash for tickets, with up to 100,000 set to go on sale in the days before the tournament starts on June 28. The All-England Club have confirmed for the first time that they are confident of increasing the number of tickets available above 25 per cent of capacity, according to The Telegraph.
Pilot events, which have run through April and May, and included 4,000 fans at the FA Cup semi-final between Leicester City and Southampton and the Carabao Cup final between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, have provided insights into safety measures that may be required.
They include factors such as ventilation, crowd control measures and mask wearing, and Culture Secretary Dowden has said there may need to be covid certification, which would record whether a person is vaccinated or has received a negative covid test.
The use of so-called covid passports is still subject to a review by the Cabinet Office.
England’s Summer of Sport
Key events after 21 June – the earliest date all restrictions can be lifted:
11 June-11 July: Football – Euro 2020 in various countries, including seven matches at Wembley
28 June-11 July: Tennis – Wimbledon
23, 24 & 26 June: Cricket – England v Sri Lanka T20s
29 June, 1 & 4 July: Cricket – England v Sri Lanka ODIs
8, 10 & 13 July: Cricket – England v Pakistan ODIs
13 July: Athletics – Diamond League: Anniversary Games at London Stadium
15-18 July: Golf – The Open at Royal St George’s
16, 18 & 20 July: Cricket – England v Pakistan T20s
17 July: Rugby League – Betfred Challenge Cup final at Wembley
18 July: Formula 1 – British Grand Prix at Silverstone
4 Aug-14 Sept: Cricket – England v India five Test series
6 August: Football – EFL season commences
14 August: Football – Premier League season commences
19 August: Cricket – Royal London Cup final
21 August: Cricket – The Hundred women’s and men’s finals
18 September: Cricket – Vitality T20 Blast semi-finals and final
28 Sept-1 Oct: Cricket – Bob Willis Trophy final at Lord’s
3 October: Athletics – London Marathon
9 October: Rugby League – Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford