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Ireland's Nations League games could be played in neutral venues as UEFA consider travel headache

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Stephen Kenny's first game as Ireland manager will be against Bulgaria next month. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile

Stephen Kenny's first game as Ireland manager will be against Bulgaria next month. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Stephen Kenny's first game as Ireland manager will be against Bulgaria next month. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile

UEFA may decide to move Ireland's Nations League games next month to a neutral venue, while League of Ireland clubs could end up playing one-off matches in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League and Europa League in the neutral venues of Greece or Hungary.

UEFA updated all national associations today on the Coid-19 related headaches of scheduling matches in next season's Champions League and Europa League as well as the Nations League.

Because of travel restrictions and quarantine regulations imposed by national governments, clubs travelling across Europe to play at club or senior international level is a major problem: the current policy of the Irish government allows for unrestricted travel to only 10 countries on the "green list".

UEFA have delayed any final decision on the September internationals and whether fans can be admitted to matches played under the UEFA banner.

But ahead of Monday's draw for the qualifying rounds of the club competitions, they could get around travel issues by declaring four countries (Poland, Hungary, Greece and Cyprus) as hubs for club games in UEFA competition to be played at neutral venues.

Dundalk, Bohemians, Derry City and Shamrock Rovers are due to compete in Europe later this month, the clubs already aware that matches will be played over just one leg.

As things stand, Irish citizens cannot travel back from Poland and Cyprus without undergoing a 14-day quarantine on return.

"In order to comply with travel restrictions and quarantine requirements issued by authorities, some matches may need to be moved to neutral countries/stadia and the detailed scenarios were presented," UEFA said today.

"In this respect, UEFA thanks four associations for their cooperation (Poland, Hungary, Greece and Cyprus), which means that it has been able to provide neutral venue hubs, with these countries making some of their stadiums available on the scheduled match dates and offering a travelling corridor to the teams to come and play the match without restrictions."

"The September international window was also discussed and the difficulties that the national teams will have to face with the same restrictions highlighted. Close cooperation between all teams and UEFA will be needed to ensure the regular staging of all matches. The possibility of playing international matches at neutral venues cannot be discounted at this stage," UEFA added.

"Both UEFA and national associations are aware of the importance of allowing fans back into stadia but the situation in Europe is very fragmented. UEFA is constantly monitoring the evolution of the regulatory landscape in the different countries and a review of the situation is planned around mid August to see if the current decision of playing all matches behind closed doors can be at least partially changed."

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