England fans resident in the UK who had precious tickets for the Euro 2020 quarter-final have seen them cancelled at the request of the Italian government.
Fears that fans would travel to Italy for the match against Ukraine on Saturday and ignore a five-day Covid quarantine period led authorities to ask Uefa to take back tickets sold to UK residents, a request with which the tournament organisers have complied.
Fans who had bought tickets for the match before 28 June were given a deadline of 9pm on Thursday night to transfer the tickets to friends or UK nationals living in Italy. After that their tickets were withdrawn, refunded and put back on general sale.
It comes as the latest twist in a befuddling saga as England fans have faced up to the realities of travelling abroad while levels of the Delta variant of Covid-19 are rising at home.
England have played all their matches in the tournament to this point at Wembley, and beat Germany in front of 40,000 fans in scenes of non-socially distant jubilation on Tuesday. With both semi-finals and final to be played at Wembley, plans to further increase capacity were described by Horst Seehofer, Germany’s interior minister, on Thursday as “utterly irresponsible”.
Rome’s Stadio Olimpico will hold only 18,000 on Saturday. Under Uefa rules, the FA had a national allocation of 2,000 tickets for the match but returned it on Wednesday after deciding not to sell the tickets to UK residents because of the quarantine requirements. Now tickets bought by fans much earlier in the sales process have been returned too.
Some England fans, resident in Italy or elsewhere on the continent, may still be able to make it to the match. Plans had been set up by Uefa to give priority to fans who declared themselves expatriate England supporters when registering for tickets via general sale.
A Uefa spokesperson said: “The Italian authorities have asked Uefa to take measures to ensure that UK residents do not circumvent the quarantine requirements applicable when entering Italy. They have specifically asked Uefa to cancel tickets sold to UK residents as of 28 June, stopping sales and transfers as of 21:00 this evening.
“UK residents who bought their tickets as of 28 June have been given the chance to transfer their tickets to Italian residents by 21:00 or return their tickets.”