“Obviously we are concerned,” said Hans Kluge, the WHO official in charge of Europe, referring to the European Cup.
There are only a few matches left in the tournament, but it will be tough. Although the infection rate is increasing dramatically in the UK, 60,000 people will be admitted to Wembley Stadium for the semi-finals and finals.
Under pressure from UEFA. One mystery is why the British government has succumbed to this order and allowed crowds in stadiums, as well as special rules for the thousands of VIP guests of the UK Football Association, while the relaxation of rules across the country has been postponed.
Is it because a conflict with UEFA would reduce potential British ambitions to host the 2030 World Cup? The stage itself still plays a somewhat secondary role as the site of infection. But fans must get to the stadium by bus or train, and fans fill the entrances and go out to celebrate together afterwards. “We need to investigate much more than just stadiums,” said Catherine Smallwood, head of emergency response for Europe at the World Health Organization.
In addition to infection, the transmitted signal is destructive. How can you explain to schoolchildren that they will have to sit in class with masks and segregation until next year, while thousands of fans gather elsewhere? Young people in Germany are having problems with the police because they are rebelling against social distancing rules, but in the name of football, it doesn’t matter if fans aren’t wearing masks in the stadium. hard to explain.
And UEFA? Behind the scenes, the association threatens and pressures to fill stadiums and circumvent the rules. It is clear that commercial interests await us. In response to harsh criticism from all quarters, including the World Health Organization, the federation disavows responsibility.
UEFA said that “the measures to contain the epidemic have been fully coordinated with the regulations of the relevant local health authorities in each city.” German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer described UEFA’s behavior as “completely irresponsible”.
The fact that the politician made such a statement only after the German national team was eliminated could be a tactic. In terms of content, he’s right. As the European Cup organizer, UEFA has to do more: focus on fighting the epidemic and significantly reduce the number of spectators. Against the sporting competition itself in times of pandemic, there’s not much to be said.
The organizers of the world’s largest sporting event, the Olympic Games, show how this can be done. The competitions in Tokyo begin in three weeks and may be without an audience, due to the increased number of infections. “There is a possibility that there will be no spectators, for us, the health and safety of Japanese citizens is our top priority,” said Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. I don’t think the government of Japan allows itself to be pressured by the IOC. This is how it should be.
Journalist Jens Kripella is a reporter for DW’s sports division. The text reflects the opinion of the author and not necessarily the opinion of DW.
Author: Jens Kripella