Wales fans are facing a “difficult situation” after being given the choice of applying for refunds for their Euro 2020 tickets, or risk losing their money if they are unable to attend games which are moved due to the coronavirus pandemic.
This summer’s European Championship, already delayed by 12 months because of Covid-19, is meant to be staged in 12 different countries across Europe.
However, while the prospect of supporters being allowed to attend those matches remains uncertain, there are also fears venues will be changed.
Wales are due to play two matches in Baku, Azerbaijan, and one in Rome, while the other host cities are London, Dublin, Glasgow, Amsterdam, Bilbao, Copenhagen, Munich, St Petersburg, Bucharest and Budapest.
There are concerns the tournament will have to reduce the number of countries where matches are played because of different travel restrictions and coronavirus regulations.
European football’s governing body Uefa emailed ticket holders on Thursday to say they had until 26 January to decide whether they want to request a refund or keep their tickets.
If supporters hold on to their tickets, there is a risk that matches might be played in a different location.
If that happens, Uefa says it would take “reasonable travelling distances from the original venue into account” in deciding if fans should be refunded if match venues are switched.
A change in terms and conditions stated that if Uefa decides tickets are valid, then no refunds will be offered if the match venue is switched due to the pandemic.
If matches are played behind closed doors, ticket holders will be issued with a refund.
Uefa is still planning to host the tournament across its 12 original venues and it has not yet ruled out the possibility of fans being able to attend matches.
However, playing behind closed doors is one of the many contingency plans the governing body has been preparing for months.
“Uefa can confirm that together with the 12 host cities, we are currently working on four operational scenarios for Euro 2020: full stadium; 50-100% capacity with various mitigation measures; 20-30% capacity with various mitigation measures; and behind closed doors,” a Uefa statement read.
“Each host city will together with Uefa select two to three scenarios and develop plans accordingly in the coming weeks, and a decision on which scenario will be applied individually in each city during the tournament will be made on 5 March 2021.”
‘I don’t want the risk’
Thursday’s email from Uefa to ticket holders has prompted concerns among supporters, who now face a dilemma.
“I think the likeliest scenario is that fans will not be allowed inside the stadiums, so Uefa will have to issue refunds,” said Wales fan and lawyer Owen John.
“The second most likely scenario is that Uefa tell fans they’re allowed inside the stadiums but that travel restrictions and quarantine rules are so tight that it makes it totally impractical for supporters to get there.
“I’ve decided to apply for a refund because I do foresee these games being played behind closed doors.
“In the event of the second scenario, I could have a ticket to watch Wales play Italy in Rome but I might be told by Italian authorities that I would need to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days beforehand. So I just don’t fancy the risk.
“In the unlikely event Uefa allow supporters into stadiums and the respective countries relax their travel restrictions, I’ll try and get tickets at the last minute because there will be so many others in situations like mine.”
Another supporter, Heulyn Rees, is taking a different approach.
“I’ve bought tickets to follow Wales from their third match onwards, so from their match against Italy in Rome, which is a problem because they’re not able to say with any certainty if that game will still be in Rome,” he said.
“It’s a difficult situation. I’ll keep the tickets, I’m fairly certain about that, because I wouldn’t want to miss out on the experience we had in Euro 2016.
“But there is a large element of chance. If the game moves to somewhere the other end of Europe – as someone who’s not planning to fly – that would make it difficult, if not impossible, for me to go to the game.
“I think at the moment I’ll take the chance.”
While considering its contingency plans, Uefa is still hopeful of staging the delayed Euro 2020 in its original format.
Wales are due to start their campaign against Switzerland in Baku on 12 June, before facing Turkey in the Azeri capital four days later and then taking on Italy in Rome on 20 June.
A spokesman for the Football Association of Wales (FAW) said: “In light of the pandemic and the situation across Europe, it is difficult to predict anything regarding the Euros.
“In an ideal world, every stadium would be full with thousands of fans. Everyone knows about the influence Wales’ fans had on Euro 2016. Unfortunately the world is rather different at the moment.
“At the FAW, we are preparing to play in Baku and Rome. Any decisions or plans about the tournament are in the hands of Uefa.”
‘Unfair on ticket holders’
While the FAW awaits Uefa’s decision in March, Wales’ supporters will have to decide by 26 January whether to apply for a refund or keep their tickets, knowing that carries the risk of losing their money if they are unable to attend potentially rearranged matches.
“It does have a bit of a whiff of a company trying to protect its income a little bit,” said Adam French of consumer magazine Which.
“I think it’s really poor of Uefa to try and roll this out, especially this far out when we don’t know what’s going to happen in the summer yet.
“In my opinion, it’s potentially an unfair term they’re trying to force on ticket holders because it does put you at such a massive disadvantage.
“It does feel wrong and certainly ticket holders are facing a tricky decision to make and only a few days to make it.”
— to www.bbc.co.uk