Fans rewarded for UEFA multi-country event – WHIO TV 7 and WHIO Radio

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GENEVA – (AP) – It sounded ambitious nine years ago when UEFA announced it would host the 2020 European Championship in 13 different cities across the continent.

He seemed optimistic last year when UEFA decided to stick to a 12-city plan after postponing Euro 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic was declared.

Euro 2020 will now start in 11 cities, separated by four time zones and up to 4,700 kilometers (3,000 miles).

Still, the original and unique accommodation plan appears to be the best outcome fans could hope for, with the coronavirus continuing to limit international travel.

Nine of the 11 hosts – all but Azerbaijan and Romania – qualified for the 24-team tournament, giving tens of thousands of fans the chance to see at least two home games.

This is a better result than having a single host country, like France in 2016 and Germany in 2024, which probably should have closed the borders to many visiting fans. In 2012, the best bidder for the 2020 tournament was Turkey, a country which has just been withdrawn from the Champions League final for the second year in a row.

“We have a big advantage having a lot of home teams,” UEFA tournament director Martin Kallen told The Associated Press.

More than 50,000 Hungarian supporters could be inside Budapest’s Puskas Arena to watch the host team play World Cup champion France and reigning European champion Portugal in Group F. Around 30,000 Russians should be allowed into the St Petersburg stadium to see their host team in the lead – classified Belgium and neighboring Finland in Group B.

Kallen acknowledged that the logistics of a late move to a single-host option were “in principle impossible” as the pandemic exploded during the European winter.

And not necessarily more secure.

UEFA hired Switzerland’s top public health official in charge of the pandemic response, Dr Daniel Koch, as an adviser on crowd issues at Euro 2020 last year. risk of having 24 sets of fans moving to one country.

“I think it was a bad guess to think it would be a lot easier if (Euro 2020) was only in one (place),” Koch told the AP.

Having 12 different hosts, until Dublin quit in April, has given UEFA flexibility and a wide range of governments focused on health and safety issues.

“The risk of a local outbreak going wild is much less,” Koch said.

Fan issues have been the uncertain factor this year, as UEFA proved last August with the Champions League and Europa League mini-tournaments that teams can travel and play safely.

All 55 European national teams have also played in Nations League games, Euro 2020 qualifiers and 2022 World Cup qualifiers with little disruption, although some players have been sidelined by positive tests and by their isolation.

Private jet travel and the strict protocols managed by UEFA at airports and hotels, limiting contact with staff and other customers, are now the norm for international players.

Only two national team games have been called off, both in November. Norwegian public health officials have prevented the team from traveling to Romania and Ukrainian players have been quarantined in Switzerland.

“The team discipline and the professional approach was very good,” Kallen said, noting that for young players “it’s not easy to be in the bubble all the time.”

A widely reported misconduct involved two young England players in Iceland during the season’s first international break in September.

Team-wide PCR testing is mandatory the day before matches hosted by UEFA, which hired a German lab last year to run the program and deliver the results at least six hours before kick-off. sending.

And UEFA is ready for an epidemic at Euro 2020. Matches can be postponed for up to 48 hours if more than half of a team tests positive, with substitutes.

Kallen said players who tested positive were his biggest concern for Euro 2020, which adds a month and 51 games to an already stressful and crowded season.

“There is a legitimate concern that the quality (of the game) is affected by the level of fatigue,” said Jonas Baer-Hoffmann, general secretary of the FIFPRO players’ union.

End-of-season games are where the stakes are highest, he warned, after “the longest period of exposure to intensity. They are already exhausted when they get there.

Yet the football spectacle continues. UEFA, fans, players and broadcasters all want Euro 2020 to happen and many federations across the continent depend on grants from the $ 2 billion in revenue it generates.

Koch said he believes UEFA has struck the right balance.

“If we plan, we bubble, test, stuff like that, a lot more is possible than you might think at first,” the doctor said, “and shutting everything down is not the only solution.”

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More AP football: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports





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