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UEFA medical official warns international matches will have to be played behind closed doors

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The Aviva Stadium could be empty for Ireland's UEFA Nations League matches later this year. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

The Aviva Stadium could be empty for Ireland's UEFA Nations League matches later this year. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

The Aviva Stadium could be empty for Ireland's UEFA Nations League matches later this year. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

A senior UEFA medical official has warned that international matches due to be played this year, including autumn games in the Nations League, may have to be played behind closed doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

And if implemented by UEFA's Executive Committee, that decision would be a huge financial blow to associations such as the FAI who had hoped to have crowds, albeit with a severely limited capacity, at home international matches.

The financial impact of Covid-19 on some of the bigger football nations was laid bare on Monday when the English FA announced there would be 82 redundancies on their staff, with another 42 vacant posts not being filled.

"The reality we are faced with is that no one knows the future and I believe that the money we have already lost, combined with the uncertainty of the coming months, means that we need to consider these proposals to avoid making matters worse in time," Mark Bullingham, the FA's CEO, said of the job cuts.

The FAI's Interim CEO, Gary Owens, has previously stated the importance of the association being able to expect some form of revenue from ticket sales and other income from home matches in the Nations League: Ireland are due to host Finland in September, Wales in October and Bulgaria in November.

While leagues in England, Germany and Spain are being played behind closed doors, other countries such as Serbia, Bulgaria and Poland have gradually admitted supporters to league games.

Bulgaria host Ireland in Stephen Kenny's first game in charge in September and the Bulgaria FA had put on sale 10,000 tickets for their domestic cup final which takes place tomorrow.

But Tim Meyer, head of UEFA's Medical Commission, has issued a warning over stadiums being opened to the public.

"There has been no verdict on spectator participation in the matches yet. However, it looks like there will be no competitions under UEFA's patronage with people in the stands this year. It would be too much of a risk," Meyer told a German news agency.

UEFA plan to host the remaining matches in this season's Champions League and Europa League tournaments in one country each, Portugal and Germany respectively in August, but Meyer says other tournaments will have different conditions attached.

"The situation for international football is much more complicated than for the national leagues," he said.

"For a final tournament that takes place in one country, this can be organised relatively well.

"But when all 55 UEFA nations start with international matches and the Nations League in September, there will be other levels of difficulty, such as national legislation or laboratory availability. That will be far more complex at UEFA level."

Online Editors