Belfast Telegraph

Fixture clash with EU poll presents poser for Euro 2016 fans

Fans of three home nations staying in France for the knockout stages of Euro 2016 could miss their chance to vote in Thursday's referendum.

The fixture clash between politics and football has presented a challenge for some England, Wales and Northern Ireland supporters who arranged postal or proxy ballots.

Others have ignored it in favour of a few days basking in the sun or toasting their team's success.

Pollsters have put the Remain and Leave camps ever-closer in the run-up to the vote, with the result known on Friday morning.

Chris James, 23, an England fan from Woking, said he had not given it much thought but would be home in time to have his say.

"I've been out here for a few weeks, so I'd actually forgotten it was happening, but when I get home I'll vote and I think I'll probably vote Remain."

Steve Harris, 21, an England fan from West Bromwich, said he would be in France for the poll and had not arranged a proxy or a postal vote.

"It was only once I got out here and someone mentioned it that I realised I wouldn't be able to vote," he said.

"I'm not too bothered, I'm not sure what difference it would make."

Many Wales fans who have been supporting their side throughout the tournament in Bordeaux, Lens and Toulouse have already left for home - with supporters saying they were not banking on Chris Coleman's side to get through the group.

Chris Ashcroft, 29, originally from Carmarthenshire, said: "I actually voted before I left. I've got a postal vote so just filled that in even though I will be back to vote in person.

"I don't think any of the Wales fans were optimistic enough to start planning for us getting through to the knockout stages to be honest - years of watching them makes you a bit pessimistic."

Friend Christopher Jones, 31, now of Birmingham, said: "I'll be back home to vote - Wales are staying in Europe and I want us to stay in Europe too.

"Hopefully we'll be back out here for the Paris game but I've got to go back and see my family first."

Northern Ireland's Green and White Army was still busy celebrating qualification on the boulevards of Paris but many said they would be home in time.

Michael Simms, 33, from Newtownabbey near Belfast, added: "I have my flight home booked for later today.

"I still have some negotiating to do with the missus about whether I can get back out here at the weekend. But I will definitely be home in time to vote."

He had flown to Paris on Tuesday, the day of Northern Ireland's final group fixture against Germany, with a group of friends from Ulster University, including transport company manager Michael McClure, 34, from Armagh.

Mr McClure said: "I don't think I would like to see us leave the EU but I think Europe could improve its work ethic.

"Here in France they think they have had a long week if they do 35 hours and there are all these problems with raising the age of retirement.

"I will probably be working until I am over 70, so I don't see why the Europeans should get special treatment."

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