The Euro 2020 final between England and Italy won’t be shown to hundreds of fans on the big screen on the side of Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol this Sunday evening, stadium bosses have confirmed.
All the England matches at the tournament so far have seen large numbers of people at picnic tables watching the action – but stadium bosses said the logistics of running such an event for the final, with the risk that thousands will turn up to watch, are too great.
The stadium’s famous indoor Sports Bar will still be open for fans to watch from tables, but those in charge at Ashton Gate said they were ‘gutted’ that they had to make the decision about the outdoor space.
The set up for the England games so far during Euro 2020 has been rows of picnic tables outside, lined up between the John Atyeo statue and the big screen, and more fans inside the Sports Bar, with table service provided from the bar inside.
For last night’s semi-final win over Denmark, people who had watched Russell Howard’s comedy gig on a stage on edge of the pitch were also able to watch the game on the screen there, from the Lansdown Stand.
But the prospect of hundreds, maybe thousands, of people coming to Ashton Gate who haven’t booked and wouldn’t be able to fit in the fan zone area means Ashton Gate stadium boss Mark Kelly has taken the tough decision not to create the area again for the final.
There is also the added logistical challenge of still running the NHS covid vaccination centre next door in the South Stand concourse – with people arriving for the vaccines possibly struggling to access the car park and vaccination centre if there are crowds of fans gathering.
A statement from Ashton Gate Stadium said: “With the NHS Vaccination Centre continuing in the South Stand, and the crossover with Russell Howard’s live show, and other events, inside the stadium, we are unable to facilitate the Fan Zone safely under current COVID guidelines.
“Ashton Gate looks forward to the safe return of supporters for the start of the football and rugby seasons,” it added.
With covid case numbers rising in South Bristol too, those in charge of running Ashton Gate said they are also mindful of not encouraging large crowds to gather with no social distancing – in the car park of the stadium.
“I’d love to do it but we have to enforce people sat outside and also have to limit numbers, there’s just far too much risk associated with it,” Mr Kelly told Bristol Live.
“I really want to focus now on getting the season started safely and ensure Ashton Gate doesn’t bring any risk to South Bristol.
“The restrictions make it impossible alongside the vaccination centre,” he added. “We would of course love to do it, but if I can’t do things properly and safely I won’t,” he said.
The semi-final win brought large crowds into The Centre in Bristol for an impromptu party last night, and it’s those sorts of scenes being replicated at Ashton Gate that those at the stadium are keen to avoid – especially since they won’t be able to control the numbers turning up at an outdoor event.
Thousands gathered for the 2018 World Cup to watch on the big screen outside the stadium, but with Bristol still under covid restrictions, the stadium managers have to guarantee that any event they put on remains within those guidelines, with people who have booked and allocated to tables, rather than gathering in large crowds.
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