KEIR RADNEDGE at WEMBLEY —- UEFA has confirmed that the 2016 European Championship finals will be hosted as planned in France, despite the terror attacks in Paris last Friday which left 129 dead and 350 injured.
In a statement European football’s governing body said that it was confident the tournament would be safe and secure for all involved. Earlier in the day, France’s 1958 World Cup striker Just Fontaine called for the country to relinquish hosting rights, claiming it was “simply too dangerous”.
However, UEFA insisted it remained fully behind France in their capabilities to host the landmark 24-team tournament.
The statement said: “For more than three years now organising committee Euro 2016 SAS has been working closely with the relevant authorities to develop the most appropriate mechanisms in order to guarantee there is a safe and secure tournament and we are confident that the necessary measures will be taken to ensure that is the case for all involved.
“The Euro finals draw will go ahead as scheduled on 12 December at the Palais des Congres in Paris and the final tournament will be played in France from June 10 to July 10, 2016.”
At the weekend Jacques Lambert, president of the organising committee, had said: “To consider the cancellation of Euro 2016 would be to reward the terrorists.
“The level of risk has been raised but there is no reason why the situation affects the anti-terrorism plan for Euro 2016. We will take all the necessary decisions so that Euro 2016 can go ahead in the most effective conditions. Stadium security works well, the risk is on the street, at spontaneous gatherings.”
The draw for the finals will also be staged as planned in Paris on Saturday, December 12.
All France’s 23 squad players involved in the friendly last Friday in the Stade de France, insisted they wanted to take part in the match against England at Wembley tonight.
Three terrorists exploded suicide belts outside the Stade de France where President Francois Hollande was attending the match. At least one terrorist had tried to enter the stadium with the intention of detonating his explosives during the game but had been turned back to security staff.
Fans have been urged to arrive early at Wembley for the England v France game because of increased security checks. Prince William, as president of the Football Association, and Prime Minister David Cameron have both decided to attend in further gestures of inter-nation solidarity.
Chief executive Martin Glenn said: “We spoke to the French federation on Saturday, and were in touch with the French president’s office and there were two conditions to hold the game.
“UK authorities and government need to make sure it was safe and the French wanted to play. They wanted to go ahead, for mainly symbolic reasons, and we were very happy to meet their concerns.”
He also added that the eyes of the world would be on Wembley.
Glenn said: “This is going to have massive global significance – the first major event since Friday. It is a chance to demonstrate terrorism can’t win. We can’t afford to let this act of terror cow us.”
England manager Roy Hodgson acknowledged the complexities of a match which is about far more than ‘mere’ football.
He said: “There’s something hanging over us which is far greater than a football match. That will be lingering whether we like it or not. I’ve never been in a football game like this before.”
England’s players observed a Europe-wide one-minute silence at 11am on Monday before their training session.
Wembley’s arch will be lit up in the red, white and blue of the French flag to show solidarity. Screens outside the ground have already been showing the French motto ‘liberte, egalite, fraternite’, and before kick-off the words of La Marseillaise will be shown for any fans who want to join in.