Iceland exempt from ruling, to face England in UK

The English Football Association have seen their plea to allow their final UEFA Nations League group game against Iceland to take place at Wembley next Wednesday accepted by the British government.

Talks are continuing on Thursday between the FA and senior government officials in an attempt to clarify whether existing coronavirus regulations denying Iceland’s players and staff entry into the United Kingdom will remain in place.

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The government are refusing entry to any non-UK residents who have been in or travelled through Denmark in the past 14 days after the discovery of a new COVID-19 strain on Danish mink farms. Iceland play Denmark in Copenhagen on Sunday.

“We are pleased to confirm that following discussions with the relevant authorities next Wednesday’s UEFA Nations League fixture against Iceland will go ahead at Wembley Stadium,” an FA spokesperson said in a statement.

Germany had been mooted as a possible neutral destination if the rules are not relaxed so England can avoid forfeiting the game.

UEFA had confirmed to ESPN that if England were unable to stage the game or relocate to Germany in time, they would be deemed to have failed to fulfil their fixture obligations and therefore would default to a 3-0 defeat.

An automatic defeat would almost certainly determine whether England qualify for the knockout stages or not given they are third in Group A2 and face leaders Belgium in Brussels on Sunday.

Only the group winners go through to the semifinals. Teams level on points are then separated on goal difference and so a 3-0 defeat would mean England require a huge win in Belgium to have any chance of progressing.

“We have asked government to consider allowing us to play our final UEFA Nations League match at Wembley Stadium, by giving travel exemption to the Icelandic team subject to strict medical protocols,” an FA spokesperson had said in anticipation of the ruling. “The Icelandic team will have played Denmark in Copenhagen and therefore would be subject to a travel ban.

“While in Denmark they will have been under strict UEFA protocols in a sporting bubble and will be PCR tested before travelling to England. The PCR test picks up the Cluster 5 variant.

“We have agreed with the Icelandic team that they arrive on private charter to a private terminal and will only have access to their hotel and the stadium. We will also put in place additional testing over and above the multiple tests normally required for each participant and staff at the match.

“We are not asking for this support to help us have home advantage in this…

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