June 20, 2021

Between sanitary bubbles and limited gauges in stadiums, a Euro in Covid mode

It is a football Euro unlike any other which opens on Friday June 11 in Rome, with a promising Turkey – Italy. By its unprecedented organization: eleven stadiums in eleven different countries across the continent. And by the context: postponed by a year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the competition, which will end on July 11 at Wembley stadium in London, will be marked by drastic health conditions for teams and supporters . Bubbles, quarantine, fan-zones… Overview of the measures put in place.

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  • Strict isolation and testing for teams

Most of them gathered since the end of May, the 24 teams participating in the Euro, and their staff, are subject to strict isolation. The French team is thus “confined” to its base camp in Clairefontaine (Yvelines). Until June 14, the date of their departure for Munich, where they will face Germany the next day, the Blues can only go out on rare occasions: bike rides in the forest or friendly matches played in Nice against Wales. and at the Stade de France against Bulgaria.

“We can imagine everything: a delivery man who will touch a handle, we touch it then and that’s it, the virus is transmitted. We have to plan for everything, even the unforeseeable ”, explained, in early May, Guy Stéphan, assistant coach Didier Deschamps. If the epidemic is clearly decreasing in France, the risk is still great of seeing a source of contamination appear in the group. Like what happened in rugby with the XV of France, where twelve players and four members of the management contracted the Covid-19 during the Six Nations Tournament, at the beginning of the year.

Players will also have to undergo regular tests, spaced no more than four days apart during the competition. As for vaccination, no instructions have been issued by the organizer, UEFA, but part of the delegations will have already received one or two injections. The management of the Blues was vaccinated before the end of May, but nothing was organized for the players, left to their “Personal choice”.

  • The Covid-19 is already disrupting some teams

Even before its kickoff, the Euro is experiencing first health alerts with at least four positive cases detected in three different teams: two for Sweden, one for Spain and another in the group of the Netherlands.

On the Spanish side, the bad news came from captain Sergio Busquets diagnosed positive Sunday, June 6. Defender Diego Llorente, who tested positive on Wednesday, is finally considered false positive after testing negative on Thursday. From the first known results, Spain adopted drastic isolation measures, forcing its players to train alone until the end of the supposed incubation period.

The Spanish coach, Luis Enrique, had to adapt: ​​Spain sent his Hopes team to play their last preparation match on Tuesday night against Lithuania (4-0), and the Asturian coach urgently retained six reservists and eleven members of the Espoirs team to be prepared for any eventuality. The Spanish Ministry of Health announced on Wednesday June 9 that the entire selection will be vaccinated in the coming days.

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Among the Swedes, who will face… Spain for their first match of the Euro, Monday, June 14, Dejan Kulusevski and Mattias Svanberg were diagnosed positive and will not play this first meeting. The selection also announced the implementation of daily rapid tests and an increased number of PCR tests, indoor meetings in smaller groups and in larger spaces.

It is for these reasons that UEFA had authorized the coaches to retain 26 players instead of 23. If, however, a cluster does arise in a selection, its match will be played if it has at least thirteen players, at least one of whom. guardian. If this is not the case, the match will be rescheduled within 48 hours at another stadium. And if this is not possible, the team will be penalized with a defeat by forfeit (0-3), because “Responsible for the cancellation of the meeting”.

  • In the stadiums, variable gauges

Despite a still fragile health situation across the continent, UEFA has demanded cities hosting matches to welcome the public into the stadiums. Faced with this obligation, Bilbao and Dublin withdrew at the last moment. The games scheduled in Bilbao have been transferred to Seville and those scheduled for Dublin will eventually take place in St. Petersburg and London.

“Each site, each city, each country has defined its formula” to organize this return of the spectators, explained to AFP Daniel Koch, health adviser of the UEFA. Budapest has pledged to fill its stadium – around 68,000 spectators – on condition of full vaccination for Hungarians, and vaccination or negative test for foreigners.

Other good students: Baku and St. Petersburg have pledged to fill 50% of their stadiums. Conversely, Munich will admit only 22% of the public in its legendary Allianz Arena, ie 14,000 people at most.

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  • For the supporters, obstacles at the borders

For fans who want to follow their team, the major obstacle will be at the borders, while only Azerbaijan, Hungary and Russia have, for the time being, put in place special procedures for ticket holders, which will be thus exempted from quarantine on their arrival. Bucharest is considering doing the same for visitors staying less than three days on site and presenting a negative test for Covid-19.

But restrictions are in force everywhere else and in particular in the United Kingdom, faced with a surge of the Delta variant appeared in India, and which is to host the semi-finals and the final in London. These measures may vary depending on the country of origin of the ticket holder.

  • What about fan-zones in France?

They had had great success at Euro 2016 or the 2018 World Cup. But for this competition, most cities are still reluctant to set up fan-zones for matches again.

The Minister for Sports, Roxana Maracineanu, confirmed on June 4 that such spaces could be installed, but with the obligation to remain seated and a maximum capacity of 5,000 people, until June 30 – a date marking a relaxation of health measures in France. “After this date, we will return to more or less normality”, she hopes.

With these still drastic conditions, many cities however prefer to wait until July and the start of the final phase – hoping that France is still qualified – to set up these famous fan-zones.

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