LONDON: England’s Nations League match against Iceland next week will be played at Wembley after the UK Government granted a travel exemption to the visiting side.
The venue of the Three Lions’ group finale – and final fixture of 2020 – had been in doubt because Iceland will be coming from Denmark — which has been the subject of a travel ban since November 7 because of a new strain of Covid-19.
Germany and Albania were considered as alternative venues but the national stadium in London has now been given the green light to host the match next Wednesday.
The FA said in a statement: “We are pleased to confirm that following discussions with the relevant authorities next Wednesday’s UEFA Nations League fixture against Iceland will go ahead at Wembley Stadium.”
The Government exemption was announced on Thursday evening, when it was confirmed that the travel ban on Denmark had been extended “for a further 14 days following an outbreak of coronavirus in mink farms”.
The Department for Transport said: “The government has also announced a limited exemption for a small number of Danish and Icelandic national football players to travel from the UK to Copenhagen and back, without the need to self-isolate, to take part in upcoming international football fixtures.
“This temporary and extremely limited exemption will allow the relevant players and essential staff support to be exempt from the new requirements and will help reduce any disruption for England’s upcoming Nations League fixtures.”
The news is welcome for Gareth Southgate’s men and the FA, which pleaded with Government to allow the match to be held at Wembley in order to protect their players and save costs.
The match against Iceland could decide whether England qualify for the knockout stages of the Nations League, but home advantage was not the primary concern.
“We are not asking for this support to help us have home advantage in this competitive international match, although of course that would be helpful,” the FA said on Thursday morning.
“We are not asking for this support to avoid a huge cost from playing an England home match in Germany, although we can ill afford the financial penalty at this time.
“The priority must be health, which is why we are asking for this support.
“We believe it’s in the better interests of the England team and support staff to play at Wembley Stadium rather than have international travel at this time – and then play the match under the same UEFA protocols against the same opposition, but in a different country.”