Euro 2020: Wales fans urged not to travel to Italy and Azerbaijan

Published
media captionEuro 2020: "Why aren’t I there? I should be there"

Welsh football fans have been warned against travelling to Wales' delayed Euro 2020 group games in Azerbaijan and Italy due to Covid restrictions.

Thousands of fans had hoped to watch their team in the Euros next month as Wales play Switzerland and Turkey in Baku before facing Italy in Rome.

But the FA of Wales said the UK Foreign Office had issued advice, warning Wales fans "not to travel".

Azerbaijan and Italy are currently on the UK's amber travel list.

Although travel is no longer illegal to countries on the amber list, UK governments have advised people not travel to amber countries.

Changes to Covid rules mean holidays abroad to some "green list" countries are now allowed, like Portugal.

However, Wales' First Minister Mark Drakeford has urged people against any unnecessary foreign travel.

The Football Association of Wales (FAW) said it had been in talks about games at the European Championships with the UK government and has now confirmed fans "attending the matches will not be deemed as essential travel".

"Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the FCDO (the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office) has issued advice warning Cymru fans not to travel to Baku or Rome as Azerbaijan and Italy are on the UK Government's Amber list," an FAW statement said.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionFans may be allowed by governments to travel to see games in the Euros knockout stages if Wales qualify from their group - if Wales games are played in the UK or "green list" countries

The FAW asked fans who may still want to travel to see their team play in a second successive European Championships to make "an informed choice".

"For those fans who remain determined to travel despite the warnings, the FAW strongly advises that fans check that their travel insurance is still valid and fit for purpose," their statement added.

This summer's European Championship, already delayed by 12 months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, is being staged in different countries across Europe.

Wales are due to play Switzerland in Baku on 12 June and Turkey in the Azerbaijan capital on 16 June before facing the Italians in Rome on 20 June.

However, the countries remain on the government's amber list, meaning all but essential travel is not advised, and quarantine rules remain in place.

Anyone travelling from amber countries must self-isolate for 10 days on their return to the UK.

The Foreign Office has advised British nationals not to travel to amber or red list countries, to try to prevent new variants entering the UK.

"Azerbaijan and Italy are Amber and the FCDO Travel Advice advises against all but essential travel based on the current assessment of Covid-19 risks," the FAW said.

The FAW said the travel advice would invalidate most standard travel insurance policies, and "most UK tour operators won't send customers to places" where the FCDO advises against travel.

'System not fan friendly'

Vince Alm, chairman of the Football Supporters Association Cymru, told BBC Radio Wales the traffic light system was leaving fans confused.

"The system is not fan friendly that's for sure," he said.

"We would have preferred either red or green and no amber, because there's no ambiguity then, you either can go or you can't go.

"It leaves a lot of fans in a dilemma. The advice is not to go because it's not essential travel, but you can go if you quarantine. So it's make your own mind up."

image captionVince Alm (left) says many fans will still travel to the games

He added: "A lot of fans would have paid a lot of money upfront, which they can't now recoup because the insurance won't pay out because it's an amber country.

"You won't get a refund on your ticket and you won't get a refund on your hotel. I'm not 100% about flights but we're being told if it's amber, it should leave fans out of pocket by thousands of pounds. That's the problem."

Mr Alm said he believed "the majority of fans" who had tickets would still travel "for the simple fact they won't want the hassle of trying to chase the insurance companies to get their tickets".

"Many can also work from home so the quarantine when they come back doesn't affect them," he said.

image copyrightLlun cyfrannwr
image captionFfion Owen has travelled around the world to watch Wales play

Ffion Eluned Owen, 30, of Cardiff, has tickets with her friends for all three of Wales' group matches and said it was "unfair" it had been left for individuals to decide.

"We're more fortunate than a lot of other people, because we haven't booked any flights or accommodation," she said.

"I know it's advisory, but this amber light is very confusing because it says you can go but you can't go and there are things like insurance to consider.

"We've been looking forward to this for so long and English and Scottish fans don't have to make these decisions because their games are all in the UK, so it's very frustrating."

'I might need to take a megaphone'

image captionHywel Williams said he was not worried about getting seriously ill as he had recieved his vaccine

Hywel Williams has followed Wales around the world for more than 30 years, and plans to go next month despite the restrictions.

"With the uncertainty over the last year, I didn't realise how much I missed football... it's been odd that when they have a game I'm not there," he said.

Mr Williams, from Cardiff, said the advice not to travel to the games "did not really make a difference" and said he could work from home if he had to self-isolate on his return.

However he said many of his friends had decided not to go due to the restrictions.

"I worry I am going to have to take a megaphone, because I am going to be the only person in the crowd shouting on Wales," he said.

'Frustration of contract'

Consumer law expert Gary Rycroft said fans could now find it difficult to buy adequate travel insurance or claim a refund for any bookings made after the latest announcement.

However those with prior bookings, he said, should be able to reclaim money for not travelling due to the travel restrictions under "frustration of contract".

He added: "The advice - don't go but you can go - is very confusing. There needs to be a definitive statement from the Welsh government."

There is, however, some hope for optimistic Welsh fans later in the tournament.

If Wales comes top of their group, they will play their last 16 match at London's Wembley Stadium. Finishing as runner-up would mean a trip to Amsterdam.

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