Football: Irish PM calls Uefa 'out of order' over Euro 2020 stance on fans being present at games

Uefa announced on Friday that Dublin and Bilbao in Spain would no longer host matches in the delayed competition.
Uefa announced on Friday that Dublin and Bilbao in Spain would no longer host matches in the delayed competition.PHOTO: REUTERS

DUBLIN (AFP) - Ireland's Prime Minister Micheal Martin on Sunday (April 25) said Uefa was "out of order" over its insistence fans must attend Euro 2020 matches, which led European football's ruling body to drop Dublin as a host city.

Uefa announced on Friday that the Irish capital and Bilbao in Spain would no longer host matches in the delayed competition.

The move followed Irish football chiefs and the Basque government saying they were unable to give assurances on minimum spectator levels.

The four matches once destined for Dublin - three group games and a last-16 tie - will now be held in St Petersburg and London, while Seville has stepped in to replace Bilbao.

"I thought Uefa were out of order, quite frankly, putting that condition on countries," Mr Martin told Irish public broadcaster RTE.

"To force spectators in prematurely in my view was a wrong call by the footballing authorities, and I never thought it was a realistic proposition."

He noted the high incidence of Covid-19 "all over Europe" and said Ireland was "not going too far ahead of ourselves" as it eases its months-old lockdown measures.

Held over from 2020 due to the pandemic, the European Championship will now be held in 11 different countries from June 11-July 11.

Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin has said it will be able to "guarantee a safe and festive environment" with fans "at every match".

The organiser insisted it had forced the switch "simply to allow fans to attend the games after a year of not being able to watch live football in stadiums".

Budapest, St Petersburg, Baku, Amsterdam, Bucharest, Glasgow, Copenhagen, Rome and London have all promised crowds at between 25 per cent and 100 per cent of capacity in the run-up to a Uefa deadline this month.

Ireland, which has a population of around five million, has registered nearly 5,000 deaths during the pandemic and been in a third lockdown since late December.

After a hasty reopening in late 2020 contributed to a surge in cases, it has been relaxing restrictions gradually, taking its first tentative step towards lifting curbs earlier this month.

Irish Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said last week June was "too soon" for large-scale public events like football matches.