No big screen in Sheffield for Euro 2020 final as council rules out public showing
England supporters in Sheffield have been left disappointed after the council confirmed there will be no big screen for the Euro 2020 final.
With the national team on the cusp of a historic win this weekend, the city’s communities are already brimming with pride for Gareth Southgate’s squad.
Three of this year’s Lions who could well bring it home at Wembley on Sunday grew up on Sheffield’s streets and will have the whole city behind them when they step out to face Italy.
But on the day, Sheffield’s fans won’t have the chance to get together in public to watch events unfold.
While fans in cities like London, Glasgow and Preston will be out in force to watch the game on big screens, Sheffield City Council has ruled out setting up a public space for fans to watch the England squad play, citing difficulties arranging it and Covid restrictions.
Instead, deputy leader Julie Grocutt said supporters should take Sunday as ‘a great opportunity’ to boost trade at pubs and other venues.
A St George’s Flag will also be flown over the town hall.
“I would 100 per cent love to see a big screen,” said one fan, Jake, in the city centre. "I’m all for it.”
"It would bring everyone together in the city and I think that’s important when it’s international football, everyone is rooting for the same team.
"When we had one back in 2018 on Devonshire Green I think the atmosphere was amazing. I think it’s so much better when you’re outdoors and it’s open and you can go out and see a lot more people.”
When asked if a big screen was possible, Ms Grocutt said in a statement: “Logistically an event of this kind takes a lot of management and with stage 3 covid restrictions still in place this presents even more challenges in finding a suitable space and the relevant event infrastructure that meets all the requirements we must still legally adhere to.
“We want everyone to be able to join in and celebrate the big game and there are many venues across the city holding events and screening the match.
"This is a great opportunity to boost business trade and our local economy, which has suffered so much in the last 18 months. Whether you’re watching at home, with friends and family, in a city centre venue or at your local pub we know that all of Sheffield will be behind the lads on Sunday and we’ll be proudly flying the St George’s flag over the Sheffield Town Hall.”
Millions of football fans are expected to tune in on Sunday as England face Italy in their first major tournament final since 1966.
In London, Glasgow, and Preston in Lancashire, big screens and fan zones with social distancing and seating were established in June for the entirety of the tournament. Hastings Pier in Sussex has put on a screen for fans to follow games.
Pictures show supporters separated by tables and barriers – but fans can still be seen huddling and cheering together at each game’s more triumphant moments.
"I think people need something like it,” said another big screen fan, Adrian, outside the City Hall. “With social distancing I think it’s your personal choice to come if you’ve had your vaccine. I think it’s a good idea.”
“A big screen would be good,” said another fan, Will, on Devonshire Green. “There is the obvious risk with Covid but I don't think people would be put off.”
In 2018, former Mayor of Sheffield Magid Magid created a buzz in the city when he arranged a big screen to air the ill-fated England vs Croatia World Cup game on Devonshire Green in under a week.
Dramatic pictures the day after showed the green required extensive work by clean up crews after hundreds of fans packed into the pop-up outdoor venue.
Magid told The Star he was flooded with messages on Thursday asking if he was sorting out a big screen.
“I must have had at least 30 messages,” said the former mayor.
"I’ve had a message from the council saying that having a big screen is impossible.
“Surely it can’t be impossible? Having a screen in Sheffield, where football was invented, when it’s potentially coming home, is impossible? When other cities have managed to sort out screens?
"Football is doing more to unite the country than the Government or politics right now.
"The council could have overcome this with better planning and more forward footing.”
This year’s England squad features no less than three players who grew up in Sheffield – defender Harry Maguire form Mosborough, full back Kyle Walker from Sharrow and striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin from Hillsborough. Barnsley’s-own John Stones has also been a star in the squad throughout the tournament.
Harry Maguire in particular has made been praised throughout the tournament as the “man mountain in an England shirt” fending off challengers in the back row. Kyle Walker similarly has drawn fan support for his ferocious ability in one-on-one encounters.
Wednesday’s game saw Walker and Maguire in the starting line up, but Calvert-Lewin was not on the bench at all. The squad for Sunday, and whether the three Sheffield stars will be playing, will not be revealed until hours before the match.
"Wednesday was a fantastic occasion for the country wasn’t it?” said another fan, Phil. “Sunday will be a fantastic event too and it would be nice if they could arrange something like a big screen in the town centre.
"I don’t know about regulations but maybe Bramall Lane or Hillsborough could get involved in the process. That would be fantastic for community spirit. I don’t know if people would feel comfortable in terms of crowd control. Maybe that’s an issue for individuals in terms of personal responsibility and Covid.”