Several lawmakers from the European Parliament on Saturday expressed their despair with UEFA over the sight of stadiums packed with crowds during Euro 2020.
European soccer’s governing body is coming under increasing pressure to reduce the attendances for the final three matches of the tournament after a string of senior political figures, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, expressed their concerns this week over exacerbating the spread of the coronavirus.
And on Saturday, exasperated German MEPs joined the chorus of disapproval.
Tiemo Wölken: ‘UEFA endangering lives’
“I have no understanding at all for UEFA’s purely profit-oriented actions,” the health spokesman of the European Social Democrats, Tiemo Wölken, told German media group RND. “This behavior endangers lives and can set us far back in the fight against the pandemic.”
UEFA’s decision to allow thousands of people to congregate, in close proximity, during the matches has come under increasing scrutiny as several countries across the continent struggle to control the highly-infectious delta variant.
Budapest’s stadium, with a capacity of 61,000, was almost full at all four matches it hosted in the early stages of the tournament, while London’s Wembley Stadium hosted more than 40,000 for the last-16 match between England and Germany. To add to the chagrin of many, Wembley, having been given the green light by the British government, will see more than 60,000 fans come through the turnstiles for next week’s semifinals and final of UEFA’s showpiece international tournament.
Peter Liese: ‘Euro 2020 is a pandemic driver’
“It has now unfortunately been proven that Euro 2020 is a pandemic driver,” European People’s Party health expert Peter Liese (CDU) told RND, in reference to hundreds of fans returning from matches infected with the coronavirus.
In Finland the seven-day incidence jumped after the national team’s match against Belgium in St. Petersburg. Out of 4,500 Finnish fans who traveled to the city in northern Russia, 386 are known to have tested positive, with another 50 directly linked cases.
“And we also know from Scotland that there are many infections related to Euro 2020,” Liese added.
The CDU lawmaker said it was a “slap in the face for all cultural workers who still have to live with restrictions.”
Sven Giegold: ‘Not good for democracy’
Green MEP Sven Giegold also sees governments as responsible. “It is not a good sign for democracy when governments kowtow to a soccer association marked by corruption,” Giegold said.
On Tuesday, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said it was “irresponsible” of the British government to increase the number of spectators at the remaining matches of Euro 2020 in London. And two German state premiers, Winfried Kretschmann and Markus Söder, voiced their concerns over the number of fans at games in London and Budapest.