NYON: European football federation UEFA has rejected any instant-reflex consideration of playing matches at Euro 2016 behind closed doors in the wake of the Brussels terrorist attacks writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
At least 34 people were killed in two outrages in the Belgian capital on Tuesday which – coupled with the Paris attacks last year – prompted questions about security plans for the European Championship finals in France in June and July.
The Belgian federation has switched next Tuesday’s scheduled friendly against Portugal from Brussels to the Portuguese venue of Leiria amid the high tension levels. Last November a friendly against Spain was cancelled in similar circumstances after the Paris terrorist incidents.
Giancarlo Abete, the former president of the Italian federation who remains a member of UEFA’s executive, raised the possibility of closed-doors matches at Euro 2016.
‘Safe and festive’
UEFA responded swiftly with the following statement: “We are confident that all security measures will be in place for a safe and festive Euro and therefore there are no plans to play matches behind closed doors.
“However, we are nevertheless working on contingency plans and on multiple scenarios around crisis situations since we take the security of all participants [players, fans, etc] very seriously.”
This followed a statement on Tuesday when UEFA insisted that “all stakeholders involved in the organisation of the tournament will continue their joint work and will regularly monitor the level of risk for the tournament and their respective organisational plans.”
Manuel Valls, the French Prime Minister, has opposed suggestions that the finals should be cancelled because of fears of terrorist attack.
He said: “That would be a defeat, it would give a victory to the terrorists. France has all the capabilities to stage major events and we will continue to prove it.”
Belgium’s national team are one of the favourites to win Euro 2016. They launch their campaign with three Group E matches against Italy in Lyon, the Republic of Ireland in Bordeaux and Sweden in Nice.
Germany’s friendly against Holland in Hannover, three days after the Paris attacks, was cancelled hours before kickoff amid security concerns. However there are no plans to call off Germany’s game against England in Berlin on Saturday.
The Football Association said it was confident of sufficient security.
A spokesperson said: “Our plans have not changed. There have been no changes made to our itinerary and we have been in constant contact with the German authorities. Our security measures are already very stringent.”
England host Holland at Wembley on Tuesday.