Four nations as UEFA neutral venue hubs


UEFA neutral venues Aug 2020 Image: UEFA

European football’s governing body – Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) – has said that Poland, Hungary, Greece and Cyprus could be used as neutral venue hubs for its matches. UEFA will later this month review its stance on holding games behind closed doors.

The above scenario would come into play should travel or local curbs prevent a club from hosting its European trophy fixture at home, then a neutral venue would be selected in one of the above four countries.

UEFA and the General Secretaries of its 55 national associations met in a video conference recently to discuss topics related to the future outlook of UEFA competitions taking in cognizance the current COVID-19 situation which is still refusing to die down.

The 2019-20 Champions League and Europa League Round of 16 resumed recently with matches being played behind closed doors. UEFA last month confirmed that the remainder of the 2019-20 Champions League and Europa League seasons, including the new ‘Final Eight’ tournaments in Portugal and Germany, would be played out behind closed doors.

The decision from the UEFA Executive Committee came after it announced in June that Lisbon and Cologne will host the finals of tournaments to conclude this season’s Champions League and Europa League.

UEFA is now looking forward to the 2020-21 campaign and at the video conference it was pointed out that in order to comply with travel restrictions and quarantine requirements issued by authorities, some matches may need to be moved to neutral countries/stadia.

Detailed plans were presented and UEFA said the four associations of Poland, Hungary, Greece and Cyprus have offered to provide neutral venue hubs, with these countries making some of their stadia available on the scheduled match dates and offering a traveling corridor to the teams to come and play the match without any restrictions in place.

The qualifying rounds for next season’s Champions League and Europa League fixture are set to be played between August 8th and October 1st but constantly shifting guidance on travel restrictions around Europe means they are proving challenging to organize. UEFA has already reduced the qualifying ties to one leg, aside from the Champions League playoff round.

The international window for September was also deliberated upon and the problems that the national teams will have to face with the same restrictions highlighted.

A statement sent out by UEFA read, “Close cooperation between all teams and UEFA will be needed to ensure the regular staging of all matches. The possibility of playing international matches at neutral venues cannot be discounted at this stage.”

Leagues around Europe are presently weighing the pros and cons of bringing in fans back to the stadia fold, with clubs in the German Bundesliga and 2.Bundesliga agreeing on a set of measures that would allow some fans to return to venues for the 2020-21 seasons.

Bundesliga is a professional association football league in Germany. At the top of the German football league system, the Bundesliga is Germany’s primary football competition.

Michael Ryan, Emergencies Director at the World Health Organization (WHO), also warned that it is “very unrealistic” to expect countries with high rates of COVID-19 transmission to stage large-scale sporting events before the end of the year.

Regarding its current bearing on fan attendance, UEFA stated, “Both UEFA and national associations are aware of the importance of allowing fans back into stadia but the situation in Europe is very fragmented. UEFA is constantly monitoring the evolution of the regulatory landscape in the different countries and a review of the situation is planned around mid-August to see if the current decision of playing all matches behind closed doors can be at least partially changed.”

It was earlier reported that group and knock-out games would be one-legged instead of home and away fixtures (except for the Champions League playoff round). Now, additional rules were set up in order to ensure that tournaments can be held amid the challenging reality of COVID-19.

Once the host of a fixture is drawn, it’s on that club to ensure that the match can be held. If restrictions on travel or organization prohibit hosting the match at the side’s stadium, a neutral venue has to be selected. Home clubs will forfeit matches if they fail to inform UEFA of restrictions, or if restrictions are imposed less than 48 hours before kickoff.

Poland venues

The Polish Football Association (PZPN) – the governing body of association football in Poland – has revealed its venues. All of them are located within short distance from an international airport and their capacity varies between 15,000 and 18,000.

Further decisions, especially with regard to spectator participation, are expected in the coming weeks.

Poland neutral venues:

  • Arena Lublin, Lublin;
  • Stadion BBOSiR, Bielsko Biała;
  • Stadion GOSiR, Gdynia;
  • Stadion Miejski Tychy, Tychy; and
  • Stadion Miejski Widzewa, Łódź.

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