Back in 2008, as a devoted Chelsea supporter, I travelled to Moscow with my son Justin for the Champions League Final against Manchester United.
We arrived a few days early so we could take in art galleries, the Kremlin and the vast flea market, and had made our reservations for the duration at the Marriott hotel right in the centre of the city.
Forty-eight hours before the match was due to kick-off we received an apologetic call from the manager — informing us we had to leave because the whole hotel was now needed for UEFA officials.
You don’t really want a fight with Russian officialdom. So, after a gentle protest, we packed our bags and transferred to a suburban hostelry where we found rooms half-an-hour from the centre.
The sheer arrogance and extreme privilege of the UEFA football panjandrums, the army of hangers on and power of sponsors never ceases to astound me.
UEFA is at it again in the Euro 2020 tournament, for which 2,500 UEFA VIPS have been given the all clear to enter Britain without quarantine to watch the final games. (Pictured, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin [left] and Prince William [right] at Wembley on June 22)
UEFA is at it again in the Euro 2020 tournament, for which 2,500 UEFA VIPS have been given the all clear to enter Britain without quarantine to watch the final games.
Never mind that British citizens are still subjected to onerous quarantine rules while these swaggering officials swan in. Nor that, should ordinary fans behave like them, they would face a regiment of ‘track-and-trace’ marshals with the power to fine offenders up to £10,000 for minor infractions.
That the Government has allowed UEFA to ignore the rules the British public have to abide by is an outrage. It is one rule for them and another for the rest of us.
I do not buy the argument put forward by many British soccer supporters that this was a price worth paying to see the semi-finals and final of the Euro 2020 championship played at Wembley as planned before the pandemic.
I do not buy the argument put forward by many British soccer supporters that this was a price worth paying to see the semi-finals and final of the Euro 2020 championship played at Wembley as planned before the pandemic (Pictured, England fans at Wembley on June 22)
The fact is that UEFA’s bosses effectively held Boris Johnson’s Government to ransom by insisting the rules be waived for the football freeloaders. Why on earth should they be allowed to behave in this way, as if they are superior beings? It is a disgraceful and we should not have allowed it.
Britain should know by now that relaxing the Covid rules for political expediency is a terrible error for which the country could pay dearly.
The evidence is that the No 10 decision to allow fights from India into the UK, because the Prime Minister did not want to upset Dehli ahead of pre-G7 trade talks, turned out to be a major error. The thousands of arrivals from the country over several weeks brought with them the Delta variant, which has ramped up our infection rates.
Had India been on the ‘red list’ and flights grounded, it is arguable that Freedom Day, originally intended for June 21, would not have been postponed and a fresh and crushing blow to the hospitality and travel industries avoided.
Uefa are not the only visitors to be have been allowed in virtually unchecked. The G7 summit in Cornwall saw a massive influx of foreigners as world leaders gathered (Pictured, passengers at Heathrow Terminal 5)
Uefa are not the only visitors to be have been allowed in virtually unchecked. The G7 summit in Cornwall saw a massive influx of foreigners as world leaders gathered.
And their doleful legacy in one of the least Covid affected counties in Britain? A massive surge in the cases of the Delta variant and calls for surge testing. There must now be a risk that Uefa officials could bring the virus with them and increase infections.
Don’t get me wrong. As an ardent fan of the beautiful game, I would love to see a packed Wembley bedecked with flags and an English or Welsh team playing as an inspiring festival of football reaches its climax.
But surely it cannot be right that an elite flying circus of self-entitled fatcats is given priority over ordinary citizens.
What makes the situation even more preposterous is that two England squad members have been subject to the rigorous isolation rules being flouted by these Uefa visitors.
Ben Chilwell and Mason Mount had to be excluded from the squad, and were not allowed to play in Tuesday night’s game against the Czech Republic. They had to self-isolate because a Scottish player they had fraternised with after the Scotland match last Friday tested positive.
England stars Mason Mount (pictured here with Gilmour) and Ben Chilwell have been forced to self-isolate after they were spotted hugging Covid-positive Scotland star Billy Gilmour at Wembley
Yet UEFA’s thousands will be free to fly in, then roam the high spots of London town. Where’s the justice in that?
It was only a month ago that the Johnson administration showed steel to UEFA. It declined to accede to a request that up to 3,000 members of the ‘UEFA family’ be allowed into the UK without quarantine as the price for holding the Champions League final between two English clubs (Chelsea and Manchester City), in London rather than the original Istanbul venue.
The request for a waiver of quarantine arrangements was refused and the game switched to Porto. True, it was a deep blow to the tens thousands of City and Chelsea fans told they must bear the cost of flying to Porto to see the game, but it was the right thing to do.
With Euro 2020, the Government has feebly given in to UEFA — a terrible decision that will only encourage the organisation to ride roughshod over the fans.
The greed and hypocrisy which run through Europe’s top football authority are astonishing. This, after all, is the authority whose previous president Michel Platini was banned from football for accepting a $2 million bung from the former FIFA boss Sepp Blatter, and whose appeals were rejected by the courts. A man who plumped for the Qatar World Cup 2022 bid, when anyone who knew anything about football advised against it.
The vote happily coincided with Qatar pouring money into France’s top club (Paris Saint-Germain) and Platini’s son securing a lucrative job at Burrda Sport, a clothing company owned by Qataris. Investigations into allegations of corruption are ongoing.
Not so long ago Platini was insisting: ‘Europe is big continent with a lot of diversity.’
His successor as UEFA president, Aleksander Ceferin, is a proponent of taking the knee ahead of games in support of this all-inclusive mantra.
Yet when Germany lined up last night against Hungary in Munich, German officials who wanted to light up the stadium in LGBT rainbow colours were banned from doing so. The reason? UEFA ruled it might be seen as a political gesture in Budapest where gay rights are not on the political agenda.
For many supporters there could have been no better illustration of UEFA’s cynicism and insensitivity than its response to Danish star Christian Eriksen’s collapse in the Denmark and Finland match.
For many supporters there could have been no better illustration of UEFA’s cynicism and insensitivity than its response to Danish star Christian Eriksen’s collapse in the Denmark and Finland match
Young players were required to return to the field of play to finish the game just an hour or so after they witnessed the trauma. It left the impression of the organisers being more concerned with fulfilling TV and sponsor contracts than player and fan welfare.
None of this is intended to dampen my enthusiasm for the competition, coming as it does after a long delay, lockdowns and closed stadiums. Every glimpse of an enthusiastic crowd and brilliant player skills is a delight.
But one cannot escape the manipulative cynicism of Uefa. When, earlier this year, plans for the establishment of a European Super League — in which top clubs would set up a league of their own and, it was argued, block the dreams of less wealthy clubs — Uefa condemned it and, after the plan failed, claimed the moral high ground.
I would argue the organisation lost any claim to the high ground years ago. And their behaviour over Euro 2020 is yet more proof of that.