“We are obviously concerned,” said Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization (WHO) official responsible for Europe, referring to the Euro Cup.
There are only a few games left in the tournament, but they will be tough. Although the rate of infection in Britain is increasing, 60,000 people will be admitted to Wembley Stadium for the two semi-finals and final.
Under pressure from UEFA. One mystery is why the British government is bending over and allowing crowds in stadiums, as well as special rules for thousands of UK Football Federation VIP guests, while relaxing rules across the country have been postponed.
Is it because conflicts with UEFA will undermine potential British ambitions to host the 2030 World Cup? The phase still plays a somewhat minor role as the site of transition. But the crowd has to reach the stadium by bus or train, fans fill the entrance and later go out to celebrate together. “We need to test a lot more than just stadiums,” said WHO’s head of emergency response in Europe, Katherine Smallwood.
In addition to infection, the signal being sent is destructive. How do you explain to schoolchildren that they will have to sit in the classroom with masks and troop until next year, while thousands of fans flock to elsewhere? Young people in Germany have trouble with the police as they rebel against the rules of social distancing, but in the name of football, fans don’t wear masks in stadiums. It’s difficult to explain.
And UEFA? Behind the scenes, the association threatens and lobbies to fill stadiums and go around the rules. Commercial interests are clearly ahead. In response to strong criticism from all sides, including the WHO, the federation shrugs off responsibility.
“The measures to contain the epidemic are fully coordinated with the regulations of the relevant local health authorities in each city,” UEFA said. German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer called UEFA’s behavior “absolutely irresponsible”.
The fact that the politician made such a statement only after the elimination of the German team could be a tactic. In terms of content, he is right. As the organizers of the Euro Cup, UEFA will have to do more: focus on fighting the pandemic and significantly reduce spectators. Against sports competition itself in times of pandemic, there is little to say.
The organizers of the Olympic Games, the world’s biggest sporting event, explain how it can be done. Competitions in Tokyo begin in three weeks and can take place without the public due to a rise in the number of infections. “For us, the health and safety of Japanese citizens is our top priority,” said Japanese government chief Yoshihide Suga. I don’t think the Japanese government allows the IOC to come under pressure. It has to be so.
Journalist Jens Krapella is a reporter at the DW Sports Department. The text reflects the opinion of the author, not necessarily that of DW.
Author: Jens Krepel