Thousands of Scotland fans will be left without an official place to gather in London ahead of Friday’s Euro 2020 clash with England after plans for a fan park were blocked by Westminster council.
The council’s decision, backed by the government, means the 3,200 fans travelling as part of the official Scottish allocation, plus potentially thousands more with tickets bought through general sale, will not be able to take part in the “festival” atmosphere that is marketed as part of the Euro experience.
Scottish supporters’ groups played down reports that as many as 20,000 could travel down for the match, suggesting Covid restrictions and complications were likely to constrain numbers willing to travel.
It follows a conflicted message where travel between north and south is open and the hospitality sector is open for business, but Scottish fans without tickets have been asked to stay at home or make sure they have a “safe” place to watch the Wembley match if they do choose to travel.
“There’s no way of telling how many will travel on the day,” said Hamish Husband of the Association of Tartan Army Clubs, who is travelling down alone by car to join his brother at Wembley. “It may be thousands but in London terms that’s nothing, and if they don’t have a ticket, Scots will find a way with relatives or friends who live nearby.”
Trafalgar Square has traditionally been the gathering place for Scotland fans ahead of matches, sometimes with raucous scenes, such as in 2013 when supporters filled the square’s fountains with washing-up liquid. This year, however, the square will operate as a socially distanced fan park for London’s key workers. The only other official “fan zone” in the capital, by Tower Bridge, has a capacity of 1,200 people.
It is understood Westminster council rejected a request from the London mayor’s office to open a new fan zone in the city for the Scotland match, with the government backing the call due to concerns it might encourage travel.
Paul Goodwin, of the Scottish Football Supporters Association, said the lack of a place to gather would dissuade people from travelling. “People understand what the pandemic was about and are rightly still concerned,” he said. “There’s nowhere to congregate and that’s part of what makes the trip: that good-natured bravado is best done as a collective.”
Husband added: “It’s unworthy of Covid and what we’ve all been through during the pandemic to think there would be any trouble. While I understand [ London mayor] Sadiq Khan’s concerns, I don’t think it’s wise to tell people not to come long after they have arranged their trips.”
Khan reiterated the message for ticketless fans to stay at home. “Scottish fans are renowned around the world for bringing a party atmosphere with them to the big tournaments but with Covid restrictions still in place on both sides of the border, the best thing for fans without tickets to the game or a safe place to watch it is to enjoy the game from Scotland and not come to London,” he said.