‘Irresponsible’: UEFA slammed over Euro 2020 crowd numbers

German interior minister says UEFA seems to have been driven by commercial considerations.

England fans celebrate their team's goal against Germany at Wembley stadium in London [File: Carl Recine/Pool via Reuters]

German Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer has called a decision by European football’s governing body UEFA to allow big crowds at Euro 2020 “utterly irresponsible” especially given the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus.

Seehofer told a news conference on Thursday that UEFA seems to have been driven by commercial considerations, which he said should not rank above health concerns.

Germany has permitted a limited number of fans into Munich’s stadium but London’s Wembley stadium had more than 40,000 for England’s 2-0 win over the Germans in the last-16.

“I consider the position of UEFA to be absolutely irresponsible,” Seehofer said. “We all know that contact avoidance and certain hygiene rules are indispensable to overcome infections.”

When you see pictures of “people being very close to each other” and “celebrating successes with big hugs”, Seehofer added, it is “preordained that this will promote the occurrence of infections”.

For the semi-finals and final at Wembley, 60,000 spectators are to be admitted despite a sharp rise in coronavirus figures in Britain because of the Delta variant.

Meanwhile, officials said on Wednesday that nearly 2,000 people who live in Scotland attended a Euro 2020 event while infectious with COVID-19.

Thousands of Scots came to London for their team’s game against England on June 18.

At least 300 Finns who went to cheer on the national team at the tournament have contracted COVID-19, health officials said on Tuesday.

The daily infection rate in Finland has gone up from approximately 50 a day to more than 200 in the past week, and the figure is likely to grow in the coming days, they said.

Last week, Russian authorities blamed the Delta variant for a surge in both new infections and deaths in major cities including St Petersburg which is due to host a quarter-final on Friday.

UEFA and British officials say a high vaccination rate protects most people and testing is meant to stop infected fans from entering the stadium.

Commercialism should “not overshadow the protection of the population against infection”, Seehofer continued.

Czech Republic players celebrate after the match in Puskas Arena, Budapest [Bernadett Szabo/Pool via Reuters]

On Wednesday, Karl Lauterbach, a health expert in the German parliament said: “UEFA is responsible for the deaths of many people.”

UEFA’s medical chief Daniel Koch was quoted by Britain’s PA news agency as saying it “cannot be excluded” that there will be COVID cases linked to matches at Euro 2020. But he said the same applies to any number of gatherings now permitted as restrictions ease across the continent.

He added that UEFA has ruled out any changes to the match schedule or capacity limits.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also said on Thursday that host cities need to better monitor the movement of spectators, including before they arrive and after they leave the stadiums.

“We need to look much beyond just the stadia themselves,” Catherine Smallwood, Senior Emergency Officer at WHO’s European office, told a press conference.

Last month, the WHO said it was concerned about the easing of COVID-19 restrictions by host nations, noting that some were already seeing rising cases.

Source: News Agencies