Belfast Telegraph

Terror risk could see NI Euro 2016 games rescheduled

By Staff Reporter

Northern Ireland matches at the Euros could be rescheduled and moved to different venues in France, without fans being present, in response to terror attacks or threats.

The contingency plans have been formulated by Uefa after suicide bombers tried to enter the Stade de France during a France friendly against Germany in November.

They detonated devices outside the stadium as part of a coordinated attack on Paris by extremists with the Islamic State group that left 130 people dead.

The following week, a Germany-Netherlands friendly was cancelled just before kick-off over fears an explosive device might be detonated.

Northern Ireland fans have already had trouble securing tickets to games after the allocation process was bungled by Uefa.

One said: “It would be heart-breaking if we got to France after all this trouble getting tickets and the game was held behind closed doors.”

In France, the state of emergency in place since November 11 was recently extended until May 26, two weeks before the Euros.

With Wednesday marking 100 days until the tournament begins, Uefa disclosed emergency preparations with the French government for games that may be targeted by terrorists.

“It’s possible that matches would be postponed or played later due to security or terror attacks,” Uefa tournament director Martin Kallen said.

“If there is a security issue, we would need to play the match without fans. If you have to move a lot of spectators, they may not have time to go to the match. But today there are no signs of any extreme threats.”

Across 32 days, 51 games are to be played in 10 stadiums where body checks will be in place for regular fans rather than airport-style security measures.

“If you have a full check, you cannot get all the people into the stadium,” Kallen said. “With airport checks, you need to be able to get all the materials and we have 10 stadiums. That is a logistical undertaking. Body-searching is a good way to do it.”

Another priority for authorities is securing the outdoor fan zones, set aside for ticketless supporters to watch games for free on jumbo screens.

Belfast Telegraph