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Men’s football Labour calls on government to not bow down to Uefa

LABOUR has told the government not to give football fans preferential treatment when it comes to moving freely around Britain, as Uefa ponders stripping Wembley stadium of the semi-finals and final.

A statement from European football’s governing body asked the English government to consider “a strict testing and bubble concept” where ticket holders would stay in the UK for less than 24 hours, with their movements restricted to approved transport and venues only.

As it stands, supporters from all participating countries have to quarantine for at least five days when entering Britain at the moment.

It is understood Uefa are also looking for exemptions for around 2,500 VIPs and sponsors.

A similar request was refused when Uefa was considering Wembley as a last-minute host for the Champions League final last month, but weeks later Prime Minister Boris Johnson performed yet another U-Turn when he indicated a willingness to engage with Uefa on the Euros.

“We’ll do what we have to do to keep the country safe from Covid — that’s obviously going to be our priority, and we’ll be talking to Uefa about what they want and see if we can make some sensible accommodations,” Johnson said.

“But the priority obviously has to be public health.”

Labour MP Clive Efford hit back, saying supporters and big-wig VIPs should not be allowed to “roam around without restriction.”

He said: “If they enter the country they cannot be allowed to move freely without precautions.

“They must be escorted to and from the games and anywhere else they may go. I have no objection to special arrangements being made for them to go out to dine and to go sightseeing with strict precautions in place, but they should not be allowed roam around without restriction.”

Budapest is seen as the likely destination for the games if they are moved from London, where matches at the Puskas Arena are being played in front of capacity crowds.

The Westminster government confirmed on Monday that the final four Euro 2020 matches at Wembley could be played in front of crowds of at least 40,000 despite the decision to delay the final easing of coronavirus restrictions.

The games will be part of the government’s Events Research Programme (ERP) which has been running since April and has been used to test various ways to get fans back into venues without the need for social distancing.

Currently, overseas fans coming in from countries on the amber list — which the vast majority of Europe falls within — would have to provide a negative test before leaving their country of origin in order to enter Britain and then strictly isolate for at least five days using the ‘test to release’ scheme, or for 10 days.

Asked if it was realistic that the government would grant concessions, Euro 2020 tournament director Martin Kallen said on Thursday: “I hope so. At the moment it is too early to say it but we have seen some signs that there could be a possibility.

“But it’s too early to give a clear answer, we have still some time on that side.”

Uefa said in its statement this morning it was “confident” Wembley would host the final week’s matches but also pointed out “there is always a contingency plan.”

“Uefa is delighted that the capacity at Wembley will go up to at least 50 per cent for the knockout round matches.

“At the moment, we are in discussions with the local authorities to try to allow fans of the participating teams to attend the matches, using a strict testing and bubble concept that would mean their stay in the UK would be less than 24 hours and their movements would be restricted to approved transport and venues only.

“We understand the pressures that the government face and hope to be able to reach a satisfactory conclusion of our discussions on the matter.

“There is always a contingency plan but we are confident that the final week will be held in London.”

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