Europe’s best players deserve to play in front of tens of thousands of fans at every European Championship game this summer, according to a host city official.
Alexey Sorokin, who heads the organizing committee in St. Petersburg, warned of “surprises” ahead of a crucial UEFA executive committee meeting on Monday.
He says UEFA should be “proud” of the way it is overcoming the problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“What we would hate to see are euros behind closed doors,” Sorokin said Sky Sports News from its base in Moscow. “It would be a very undesirable situation, especially for the players. They don’t deserve it. It’s a very important tournament for a lot of good players and they certainly don’t deserve to play in empty stadiums.”
As a UEFA member of the FIFA council, Sorokin will attend the summit on Monday in Montreux, Switzerland, where a decision will be made on each host city.
Nine host cities have given assurances on a minimum number of crowds, but UEFA has yet to receive government support in Germany (Munich), Spain (Bilbao) and the Republic of Ireland (Dublin).
“Surprises could come,” Sorokin warned. “You see how quickly things have changed over the last year. We still hear different stories about the upcoming Olympics; one day we found out that they are unlikely to let in foreign spectators, who would Could you imagine a situation like this two years ago? That’s exactly what I meant when I said there might be surprises.
“Having 12 cities, you have to face 12 different situations. If it was in one country it would have been easier because you are just monitoring what is going on in that country. The landscape is changing.
“Right now, all 12 cities are preparing for the event. This is what we see in our regular meetings. Each city needs to do its homework and correctly calculate its options.
“The idea of a pan-European euro, for a change, was seen as very interesting at the time. Nobody knew [coronavirus] came. Of course, on the operational side, it’s a bit more complicated. The pandemic has made things much more difficult. “
Sorokin says it is “difficult to say” whether Dublin will be able to host all four of their matches, after the Irish government has been unable to offer any assurances of minimum fan numbers.
“We understand that public health is paramount,” he said. “The Irish authorities are the best judges of what is going on in their country. It is difficult to make an assessment being in St. Petersburg, Rome or Bilbao. Each host city has to decide for itself and has to assess correctly. the situation in their city.
“UEFA has worked very hard to keep everything together. It has been very difficult, and you have to take into account multiple situations all over Europe. Under the current circumstances, UEFA and all the host cities are doing their best. For that. effort, they can be proud. “
Wembley Stadium will host at least 22,500 fans – a 25% capacity – for England’s three group matches, and they are in talks on more supporters for the semi-finals and the final.
Sorokin said: “Everyone would like to see as many fans as is acceptable under the current circumstances. What we are hearing is that this level of vaccination is high in England and that gives some hope.”
Saint Petersburg provided at least 50% capacity – around 30,500 supporters – for its four matches: Belgium vs Russia (June 12), Finland vs Russia (June 16), Finland vs Belgium (June 21) and a tie quarter-final 2nd of July.
Hosts are in talks with the Russian government on increasing the minimum capacity ahead of UEFA’s April 28 deadline and Sorokin said it would not be appropriate to offer to host more matches before a decision is made. formal.
“It would be unethical for me to comment on things like that,” he said. “We need UEFA to make the final decision… then we can start this dialogue. Theoretically, we could discuss it, but it should come from UEFA, not from us.
“It was very strange. This is probably the only event where we celebrated twice 100 days before the tournament! It was a really strange feeling. We never stopped working and we used that time to refine our schedule, we never really hibernated completely.
“We are planning activities outside the stadium. We are planning fan-zones, but with certain restrictions. We are planning cultural events and we would like to offer experiences beyond football. We believe that St. Petersburg deserves it, as as a cultural and very important city. “