UEFA is hopeful that the postponed European Championship will go ahead next year with fans able to attend, president Aleksander Ceferin said on Thursday.
However, the head of European football’s governing body did not rule out the possibility of having to change the controversial format for the tournament, which is due to be staged in 12 cities all across the continent.
“What didn’t seem strange in January seemed strange in March. Maybe something that seems strange now will not seem strange in December or January,” Ceferin told AFP in an exclusive interview in Lisbon, where the Champions League is being played to a conclusion after a long suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We still have time to think about it. For now we stay at the same format, and we hope and believe that we will have spectators in the stadiums.”
The 24-team Euro 2020 was supposed to be played in June and July this year, with the semi-finals and final in London.
However, UEFA moved swiftly in March to postpone it by a year just after football across Europe ground to a halt because of the health crisis.
It has been moved to June and July 2021 — albeit retaining the name Euro 2020 — but playing it in 12 different host countries leaves it vulnerable to different responses to the pandemic.
Currently, football in most countries is being played but behind closed doors.
The Champions League ‘Final Eight’ in Lisbon and the Europa League ‘Final Eight’ in Germany are going ahead with no spectators allowed to attend matches.
Asked if he feared similar restrictions being imposed for the European Championship, Ceferin said he would remain “optimistic”.
“I don’t want even to discuss about no spectators or a limited number of spectators. I want to stay optimistic, send positive energy, and I really personally believe we will have spectators.
“If it turns out to be impossible, we will discuss then about it.”
He added: “I sincerely believe that things will normalise before next year, far before.”