On June 11 2021, Italy are scheduled to kick off Euro 2021 with a match against Turkey at Rome’s Olimpico Stadium to commence the first ever multi-city European Championships.
The opener is exactly a year behind schedule due to the coronavirus outbreak in February 2020.
Since its unwanted postponement and the ever present pandemic, the question now is – can UEFA still go ahead with a multi-city Euros?
The Italian FA have expressed doubts about honouring commitments to host games in Rome, along with the Spanish FA initially doubting the possibility to host games in Bilbao.
UEFA were forced to change a 65-year format European Cup and Champions League traditional of teams playing home and away before the final. Instead, there was a host nation selected, and all teams competed in a single city to prevent the rise of any COVID cases.
A format change for the Champions League highlights the devastating effect the virus has had on the football industry. With such unprecedented circumstances, can it be really be justified for a multi-city European Championship to take place in the summer?
UEFA are so far holding firm: “UEFA intends to hold Euro 2021 in the format and the venues confirmed earlier this year and we are working closely with all host cities on preparations.”
Since the return of football, UEFA have been heavily criticised for staging international breaks and allowing the vast travel during this season.
It has led to a rise in COVID cases which has seen star players such as Cristiano Ronaldo contracting the virus and missing crucial games for his club Juventus.
In more bizarre circumstances, Croatia captain Domagoj Vida was substituted at half-time in the 3-3 friendly draw with Turkey on Wednesday 11 November after testing positive for the virus.
Situations like these have raised fears whether UEFA can safely host a multi-nation tournament during a time of emergency.
Coronavirus cases has reached an alarming 13 million across Europe since the outbreak in February and are continuing to increase. This has put a dark cloud over certain nations being able to host the tournament due to travel restrictions if the trajectory of cases continue to rise.
This problem was highlighted during the November international break, as England’s game against Iceland was in serious doubt of being postponed due to the government guidelines. This is a serious worry for UEFA, as Wembley is set to host both the semi-finals and final of the tournament.
UEFA SAVED BY SCIENCE?
However, it may not be all doom and gloom for UEFA, as Pfizer and Biontech’s vaccine introduction has the potential to have a major impact on the sporting industry, not to mention everyday life.
With up to 1.3 billion doses of the vaccine aimed to be delivered in 2021, this will make the organisation of the Euro 2021 a whole lot easier. Vaccinations alongside rapid testing would certainly allow governments from around Europe to ease restrictions, giving the players the ability to travel between the 12 venues.
The vaccine could prevent COVID amongst those who will be involved in the competition which would also make travel to and from the venues more safe, also giving the teams a fair advantage in the competitions.
A potential vaccine isn’t the only reason a multi-city European Championships could be justifiable. Economically, this format would be a major boost, and not just for UEFA.
The FA have expressed their desire to host games at Wembley, as FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said the English governing body forecasting losses of £150m.
Unless there is a vaccination that succeeds, UEFA will continue to be put under pressure to make the organisation of Euro 2021 more in-tune with the current world’s circumstances.
The Champions League, hosted solely in Portugal, ran smoothly without COVID-19 disrupting the proceedings, during a time where the virus – as it is now – was in the hot seat.
It seems a no-brainer to host the Euros in a single location as they have for every previous edition – but UEFA remain adamant that this will not be the case.
Prepare for more bumps along the road to Euro 2021.