Wednesday 21 February 2018

Tournament chiefs urge supporters to get to games early as storm clouds start to gather

Storms are giving organisers extra headache, says Daniel McDonnell

Jacques Lambert at a press conference at the Stade de France Picture: Getty Images
Jacques Lambert at a press conference at the Stade de France Picture: Getty Images
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

The head of the Euro 2016 organising committee has warned fans travelling to the tournament that they face long delays at stadiums unless they get to games early.

Jacques Lambert was speaking at the pre-tournament press conference in Stade de France which was naturally dominated by matters arising from last November's terror attack in Paris.

He confirmed that the planned fan-zones in the host cities will go ahead - and supporters who choose to watch the games on those sites will go through the same intensive security procedures that will be in place at the stadiums.

Lambert stressed that his team had no 'concrete' information on a threat of attacks after consultation with French intelligence.

He added that warnings from the UK and US to their citizens were 'typically precautionary'.

"As the organiser of a sporting event we are not necessarily going to be the first informed before the security services," he cautioned. "However, the information we received has come from French security forces."

Thousands of Ireland fans are due to land in Paris this weekend ahead of Monday's opener with Sweden and Lambert says they will make life easier for themselves if they get out to the ground well ahead of the 6pm kick-off.

"There will be a double security point in each stadium," he said. "It will take longer to get in, hence why you should turn up in plenty of time.

"Stadium gates will open three hours before kick-off but there will be entertainment at the stadiums."

Supporters travelling without tickets will have the option to watch the match in the fan-zones located in each host city.

Earlier this week, French security expert Oliver Guitta warned fans against the communal gatherings, reasoning that they would be less secure than the stadiums.

But Lambert said that entry to those areas would be policed in the same way as access to the match venues.

"We never considered cancelling them," he insisted.

"Why? Because immediately after the November 13 attacks, we had a meeting with the host cities. We felt it was better to have them for fans who like to watch the games free of charge on a big screen."

A total of 10,000 private security agents will be employed in and around the stadia to monitor safety, and extra measures will be taken for games marked as high risk.

Another unexpected cause of concern for the organising team is the adverse weather conditions that has caused flooding and affected transport services in Paris and around the country.

Lambert even raised the possibility that weather issues - and not security fears - could lead to games being moved to alternative venues and played behind closed doors.

"The responsibility of an organiser is to consider every possible circumstance, even the most exceptional ones," said Lambert.

"Clearly UEFA has great experience in organising Euros finals. What I can say is that the team have considered every hypothesis and among these, yes, we might have to seek recourse of organising a match behind closed doors, not necessarily due to security.

"Let me give you an example - the weather. We've had some awful weather over the last week. Once again, we had serious storms yesterday (Tuesday) in Lille and Lyon."

Ireland's Group E decider with Italy takes place in Lille on June 22.

Martin Kallen, CEO of UEFA's events department, said that the surface in Lille is one of three that has been relaid in advance of the competition.

However, the Stade Pierre Mauroy has a retractable roof which should remove any fears surrounding that fixture if the elements take another turn for the worse.

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