VIPs attending the final stages of Euro 2020 would be subject to a “very strict code of conduct” should the UK Government give the go-ahead, a minister has said.
But fears were raised that a “Uefa variant” could be brought into the country if quarantine rules were relaxed for up to 2,500 officials to attend the final at Wembley.
The House of Lords heard that the London venue risks losing the showpiece event to another country if the UK cannot meet Uefa’s attendance requirements.
Culture minister Baroness Barran said no final decision had been taken, talks were ongoing and the Government would restrict any changes to the “smallest possible group deemed critical to staging the tournament successfully”.
She added that VIPs or accredited guests would not be exempt from Government restrictions but instead only able to leave isolation for official events, which would be subject to testing and bubble arrangements, and a code of conduct would be in place.
The Government has announced the final four Euro 2020 matches at Wembley will be played in front of at least 40,000 spectators after they were included in its extended Events Research Programme which allows for crowds over the usual 10,000 upper limit.
But supporters travelling from an amber list country, such as France or Spain, would need to test negative before departure, isolate for 10 days upon arrival in the UK and provide two negative tests in that time before going to watch a match.
Speaking in the Lords, Lady Barran said: “We are not exempting any VIPs or accredited guests from our restrictions.
“If it’s agreed they should enter the UK, they would only be able to leave isolation for official events and would be subject to a very strict code of conduct.”
Asked by non-affiliated peer Baroness Stuart of Edgbaston to divulge the sanctions imposed on anyone who breached the code of conduct, Lady Barran replied: “I am not familiar with the details of that but I’d imagine it’d be the responsibility of Uefa and the international football association since it will apply to non-UK citizens.”
Earlier, Lady Barran also said: “We already permit certain officials and accredited guests to enter the UK for these matches under the elite sport exemption.
“We will continue to keep the scope of these exemptions under review and are working closely with the FA and Uefa to ensure these Euro 2020 matches take place successfully.
“At all times in this pandemic, public health remains our priority.”
Independent crossbench peer Baroness Falkner of Margravine raised concerns over the Government’s track record in allowing the Delta variant, first identified in India, to be seeded in the UK.
She added: “The public is rightly concerned that their right to life and livelihoods might again be at risk due to the possible importation of, shall we call it, the Uefa variant if these exemptions go ahead.”
Lady Barran, in her reply, said: “No decision has yet been taken … public safety remains our top priority and included within that is the safe delivery of Euro 2020.
“We have testing protocols and international restrictions in place to help ensure that this tournament can take place successfully and safely.”
Labour peer Lord Triesman, a former chairman of the Football Association, said: “I know from past bids to host major football tournaments that the organisers of the tournament stipulate their requirements in detail, including all aspects of attendance.
“Of course the United Kingdom could decline but we would know that the tournament would simply go elsewhere, which is not attractive nor generally recommended.”
Lord Triesman asked for details of the specific health and safety checks for Uefa guests should the restrictions be relaxed.
Lady Barran replied: “In terms of the health restrictions that could be imposed were we to reach an agreement potentially with Uefa, they would build on the existing elite sport exemptions that I think are well understood by the public and the rationale well accepted, which include capacity, testing, isolation and staying in particular bubbles.”
Asked how many of the delegates had been fully vaccinated, Lady Barran said: “No final decisions have been taken.
“Our approach is to restrict any extension to the smallest possible group deemed critical to staging the tournament successfully.
“I’m not aware that we will be publishing the vaccination status but we will be ensuring that any visit is a safe one.”