Fears grow multi-country format for European Championships will have to be

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

England, who have been selected for the semi-finals and final, are 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 current safety concerns nine months until the tournament.  

Europe’s governing body have already pushed back the finals – the first where they have used multiple host cities – until 2021 following the impact of the pandemic on football and last season’s domestic competitions being delayed. They are set to discuss whether the pan-European tournament needs to be scaled back and 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, saw the latter stages being staged in Lisbon, Portugal, in a mini-tournament where matches were played over one leg, rather than teams travelling to face their opponents. Their Europa League tournament was hosted in Germany after the domestic season was completed. 

Teams stayed and trained in a bio-secure 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 finale 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 is yet to finalised, with play-offs staged next month to determine who will join the other 20 countries. 

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