German Chancellor Angela Merkel has told Boris Johnson of her “grave concern” at the number of football fans being allowed to attend Euro 2020 games at Wembley Stadium.
Three days after Germany lost 2-0 to England in front of more than 40,000 supporters at the London venue, Mrs Merkel suggested the number of people being admitted was “too much”.
“I say this with grave concern. I have also said this to the prime minister,” Mrs Merkel told reporters after holding talks with Mr Johnson at the prime minister’s official country retreat of Chequers, Buckinghamshire.
“We in Germany, as you know, have less people attend games in the Munich stadium but the British government will obviously take its own decision.
“But I am very much concerned whether it is not a bit too much.”
While more than 40,000 fans were allowed to attend the England versus Germany game, matches played in Munich have had fewer than 15,000 fans present.
For the semi-finals and final of Euro 2020, which are all due to be played at Wembley, more than 60,000 fans are set to be admitted – two-thirds of the stadium’s capacity.
Speaking alongside Mrs Merkel at Chequers, the prime minister said fans were being allowed to attend sporting events “in a very careful and controlled manner” and that there were no plans to restrict numbers further.
“Of course we will follow the scientific guidance, the advice if we receive any such suggestion,” he said.
“But, at the moment, the position is very clear in the UK. We have certain events we can put on in a careful and controlled manner with testing of everybody who goes there.
“In the UK we have built up a very considerable wall of immunity against the disease by our vaccination programme.”
Mrs Merkel’s warning came in the same week that nearly 2,000 COVID cases in Scotland were linked to football fans watching Euro 2020 fixtures.
Of the 1,991 cases registered by Public Health Scotland, two-thirds said they had travelled to London for the England versus Scotland match on 18 June.
A total of 397 of these were fans at the game at Wembley.
Mr Johnson had earlier joked that Ms Merkel’s long spell in power in Germany was now ending with a break in the “tradition” of England losing to their historic rivals at international football tournaments.
“I’m very pleased to welcome Angela here on the last of the 22 visits you have made to the UK in your 16 years as German chancellor,” he said.
“In the course of that time some things have changed beyond recognition, but for much of your tenure it was certainly a tradition, Angela, for England to lose to Germany in international football tournaments.
“And I’m obviously grateful to you for breaking with that tradition, just for once.”
Ms Merkel said England’s 2-0 victory was “deserved”, but admitted it made her country “a little bit sad”.
“Obviously this was not a voluntary offer on my side to create the right mood for this visit but I have to accept it,” she added.
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