A minister has said the government is trying to “accommodate” Euro 2020 “as much as we possibly can” – amid reports thousands of VIPs will be granted quarantine-free access to England for the final.
Both semi-finals and the final of the tournament are set to take place at London’s Wembley stadium next month.
And, according to The Times, around 2,500 senior UEFA and FIFA officials, politicians, sponsors and broadcasters could be exempted from having to self-isolate on arrival to England.
The newspaper said there were concerns within government that the semi-finals and final would be moved to Hungary, which is soon to significantly ease COVID border restrictions, if they did not relax rules for VIPs coming to England for the showpiece football matches.
Under England’s current border restrictions, only those travelling from 11 “green list” countries are not required to quarantine on their arrival.
These include a number of south Atlantic islands as well as countries – such as Australia and New Zealand – that are currently not allowing international travel.
No countries competing at Euro 2020 – apart from England, Scotland and Wales – are on the travel green list.
Sky News understands ministers are still working through details with UEFA and the Football Association, although no decisions have yet been taken on any possible exemptions for VIPs.
Any move to exempt VIPs from quarantine rules would prompt a public backlash, with many Britons having been left unable to book a foreign holiday this summer due to the limited number of countries on the green list.
Asked if it was unfair that some VIPs could enjoy quarantine-free travel to the UK – while many British holidaymakers who return from non-green list countries would have to self-isolate – Home Office minister Kit Malthouse told Sky News: “One of the things we are trying to do… is obviously accommodate the Euros as much as we possibly can.
“While much of, I guess, the concern around coronavirus regulations has been about whether one situation is fair compared to another situation, what we’re generally trying to do is make difficult decisions about the path of the virus at the same time as trying to enable the ordinary operation of very special events like the Euros.
“No doubt the health professionals and the immigration professionals at the Home Office and then the senior ministers who make the decision will take all of that into account as we proceed.
“It’s a great competition, we’re very lucky to have it, we’re trying to make it happen with as much kind of satisfaction all round as we possibly can and that will be taken into account in the decision over the next few days.”
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Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said the proposal of special access for VIP visitors for Euro 2020 “does not sound fair at all”.
“It’s part of the way this Conservative government operates – there’s one rule for their friends and another rule for the rest of us,” he told Sky News.
“We saw that with Dominic Cummings during the pandemic who broke all the rules and didn’t pay the price.
“So often with this Conservative government, if you’re friendly with them you get special favours – that is not the way to do politics.”
Despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson having delayed the final easing of lockdown rules, which had been due on 21 June, the semi-finals and final of Euro 2020 at Wembley will have crowds of up to 45,000.
UEFA said they were in talks over how to allow fans of participating teams to attend games at Wembley.
And, although they acknowledged there was a “contingency plan” for moving showpiece matches from Wembley, they said they were “confident” the games would be played in London.
“UEFA is delighted that the capacity at Wembley will go up to at least 50% for the knock-out round matches,” a spokesman said.
“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.”
This year’s Champions League final – between English clubs Chelsea and Manchester City – was held in Portugal and not at Wembley, as had been floated, after UEFA and the UK government failed to reach agreement on quarantine exemptions.
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