Minister defends Uefa exemptions but admits some coronavirus rules are unfair

Uefa (PA Archive)
13:27pm, Thu 24 Jun 2021
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Coronavirus regulations are not always consistent or fair, a Cabinet minister admitted as he defended exemptions which will allow officials from European football’s ruling body to avoid quarantine rules.

The law has been changed to allow senior figures from Uefa and national sides to attend games at Wembley, despite self-isolation requirements for people visiting England.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said it is possible to loosen the rules for “limited events” but a wider relaxation will have to wait.

We have never pretended that in introducing these draconian rules they are entirely fair in every case or entirely consistent in every case

Mr Eustice was questioned about the move to allow visiting officials to attend the semi-finals and final of the tournament at Wembley, which comes at a time when some schools banned parents from attending sports days.

He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “The judgment we are making on all of these things – bear in mind these are all draconian restrictions, we want to remove them all as soon as we can –  but there is a difference in magnitude between finding a way to facilitate a single event, a big sporting event that a lot of people are interested in and want to follow, and making a change that affects the whole population and would affect things in thousands of schools.

“I’ve got a young daughter as well, we all want to see a return to people being able to attend sports days.

“But at the moment it’s really about the magnitude of scale – it’s one thing to do something to try to facilitate a single sporting event, it is different to make a change right across the whole of society, although we do want to do that as soon as we are able to.

George Eustice (PA Archive)

“It is inevitably the case that once you start removing some of these rules as you come out of lockdown, some of the ones that are left look inconsistent.

“We have never pretended that in introducing these draconian rules they are entirely fair in every case or entirely consistent in every case.

“What we have always done is try to keep in place restrictions that will dampen the spread of the virus.

“That means there are occasions, if it affects the whole community, where we will be trying to exercise caution.

Instead of caving in to pressure from Uefa bigwigs, the Tories should stand up to them, say they’re not welcome and open up their tickets to fans

“There’s a difference in that between making an exception for a small, single event.”

Downing Street said final decisions have not yet been made on who will benefit from the special measures and it did not rule out the prospect of visiting fans also being allowed to travel without quarantine measures.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “That work is still ongoing in terms of who exactly will be able to be involved in the additional measures that are being laid on for those attending from overseas countries.

“We will set out the details in due course.”

Everyone coming in through the “Uefa route” will have to take daily tests, stay in specific, designated hotels and use private transport, the spokesman added.

Shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens said: “Once again with the Conservatives, it is one rule if you have the Prime Minister on speed dial and another for the rest of us.

“It was the passion of football fans that saw off the threat of the European Super League and it is fans who are facing restrictions on travel and in stadiums.

“Football should be for the people. Instead of caving in to pressure from Uefa bigwigs, the Tories should stand up to them, say they’re not welcome and open up their tickets to fans.”

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