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[Sports] COVID-19: UEFA Not Planning Imminent Change Of Euro, Champions League Format


UEFA is not planning any imminent changes to the format for the upcoming Champions League knockout stages or to its plans to hold the delayed Euro 2020 this year despite ongoing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and other sporting events being cancelled.

“As far as the Euro is concerned nothing has changed,” a spokesperson for European football’s governing body told AFP.

Postponed last year, Euro 2020 is now scheduled to go ahead from June 11 to July 11 this year.

However, even if it does go ahead, it is uncertain whether it will be possible to stage the tournament as planned in 12 cities across 12 different countries, spread far and wide over the continent.

“Given the health situation, personally I think that the original idea of a competition spread all over Europe has little chance of going ahead,” Dominique Blanc, head of the Swiss Football Association, said in an interview with Swiss media this week.

The semi-finals and final are due to be played in London, but England is currently in lockdown as it grapples with an upsurge in infections related to a new variant of the Covid-19 virus.

The UEFA source told AFP that a decision will be made “city by city” by March 5 with four options on the table: “100 percent of spectators in the stadium, between 50 and 100 percent, between 20 and 30 percent, or behind closed doors.”

In recent days the Formula One Australian and Chinese Grand Prix were both postponed, while a prestigious World Cup skiing event at Wengen in Switzerland was called off due to increasing Covid-19 cases in the area.

Meanwhile, the European Champions and Challenge Cups in rugby union have been put on hold after the French government said the Covid-19 variant in Britain made it too risky for its clubs to face opponents from the United Kingdom.

The UEFA Champions League knockout stages are due to begin with the opening last 16, first legs on February 16.

Calls are growing in some quarters for athletes to be given priority access to vaccinations, but UEFA insist “it is too early to make any decision” regarding a new medical protocol for its competitions.

In his interview, Swiss FA chief Blanc floated two possible solutions for the Euro, with one being to hold the tournament in one country, “in Russia or in Germany, for example”.

Another would be to repeat the format for the closing stages of last year’s Champions League in Lisbon by bringing all teams together to play games in one city “with enough stadiums to host all six groups. That could be the case of London.”

In any case, he said, “we are heading towards a different Euro, undoubtedly without fans”.

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