Fan zones to watch Wales at Euro 2020 will not be returning to Cardiff this year due to concerns over coronavirus.
Earlier in June, it was confirmed by First Minister Mark Drakeford that fan zones would be permitted under new restrictions in Wales, but Cardiff council has said it is “not practicable” to deliver them.
They pointed to the short timescale and the challenges posed by social distancing and public health measures, as well the spread of the Delta Variant.
While fan zones will definitely not return during the tournament’s group stages, the council said it will keep the matter “under review” if Wales progress further in the competition.
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A Cardiff council spokesperson said: “Since the First Minister’s announcement last Friday, when the nation went into Tier One of lockdown, the council has been exploring the possibility of holding fan zones for Wales’ games at the Euros.
“This has included discussions with Cardiff City Football Club, South Wales Police, Welsh Government and the Director of Public Protection.
“At the best of times, it would be difficult to organise fan zones at such short notice, but it’s even more difficult given the backdrop of the spread of the Delta variant. Covid-compliant events would require a comprehensive range of public health measures, including Lateral Flow Testing, in order to provide the public with confidence that they could be delivered safely and without posing a threat to public health.
“The application of social-distancing requirements would significantly restrict numbers and, in general, would serve to compromise the fan zone experience, which would likely be a far cry from what we all enjoyed back in 2016.
“For all these reasons, we’ve concluded that it is not practicable to deliver a fan zone experience during the Group Stages. Our priority must always be the public health of our local communities, however, we will keep the matter under review as Wales makes progress through the tournament.”
The latest coronavirus review, held last week, saw the Welsh Government move to allow large, outdoor, organised gatherings to go ahead from June 7 for up to 4,000 non-seated, rising to 10,000 people if seated.
Speaking at a press conference on the latest lockdown-easing measures, Mr Drakeford confirmed the rules relating to fan zones, but also touched on the issue of having a lack of sufficient time to be able to plan.
He said: “Provided it is practical in the time it is available, the rules that come into place on Monday will allow fan zones to be organised, provided that they are a properly organised event and that the risk assessment is carried out depending on the size of the venue, the nature of the venue, and the number of people who will be there to staff it, and so on.
“That will draw on the learning from the pilot programmes. But, as from Monday, organised events, outdoors will be possible on the scale that we have set out and that would include fan zones.
“There is not much time to go, and given that these would have to be properly organised, then we will have to see what is possible in the time available, but if it is practically possible, provided the risk assessments can be carried out, then yes today’s decision does open the door to that sort of activity.”
On Saturday, around 6,500 Wales football fans returned to their first live match since before the coronavirus pandemic, as Rob Page’s side were held to a goalless draw by Albania in a friendly, their last game before heading to the postponed Euro 2020 tournament.
The pilot event, which was announced before the latest lockdown review, saw fans wear face coverings throughout the match, while remaining socially distanced and within their own bubbles at the ground.
Wales face Switzerland in their opening game of the tournament at 2pm on Saturday, having departed for Baku earlier this week.
They then play Turkey on Wednesday, June 16 (5pm kick-off) before taking on Italy in Rome in their final group-stage match on Sunday, June 20 (5pm kick-off).
The top two in each group, plus the four best third-placed teams, will then progress to the knockout stages.
Wales will be hoping to go even further than they did during their remarkable 2016 campaign, in which they reached the semi-finals at their first major tournament since the 1958 World Cup.