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Euro 2020: London prepares for showdown as Scots pile in for biggest clash since ’96

·4 min read
Scotland fans at Edinburgh Waverley railway station as they prepare to travel to London (PA)
Scotland fans at Edinburgh Waverley railway station as they prepare to travel to London (PA)

London is gearing up to host its biggest international football match for a quarter of a century tonight when England face Scotland at Wembley.

The global game’s oldest fixture will kick off for the 115th time at 8pm with the capital expected to come to a halt for two hours of intense sporting rivalry.

Favourites the Three Lions will be looking for a Group D win over their neighbours to secure their place in the knock-out phase of the Euro 2020 tournament. Scotland are aiming to reignite their hopes of also qualifying after losing their opening game 2-0 to the Czech Republic on Monday.

It is the most important game on British soil involving a home country since Germany defeated England on penalties in the semi-finals of Euro 96.

Thousands of Scottish fans — dressed in kilts and wrapped in saltires — arrived yesterday, with many partying in Hyde Park and Leicester Square despite the Met issuing a 48-hour dispersal order.

 (via REUTERS)
(via REUTERS)

More members of the Tartan Army arrived today at King’s Cross and Euston, with all trains from Edinburgh and Glasgow fully-booked. Many are without tickets for Wembley, where the capacity is limited to 22,500 but only 2,600 have been allocated to the Scots.

Euro 2020 is Scotland’s first tournament in 23 years and as many as 20,000 fans were expected despite pleas for them to stay away unless they have a ticket or somewhere to watch the game.

Today, policing minister Kit Malthouse suggested that those without tickets should get back on the train and go home. He told Talk Radio: “It is unfortunate that so many came despite being encouraged not to. I know that the police put a dispersal order in central London to make sure that people were not crowding into the centre.

“I hope that they do obey that, that they disperse and find somewhere socially-distanced to watch the match, or indeed it’s not too late for them to get a ticket home, of course, and get on the train this afternoon.”

Celebrities and sports stars issued a rallying cry for Gareth Southgate’s squad to build on the 1-0 victory over Croatia last weekend. Gymnast Max Whitlock, 28, Britain’s two-time Olympic champion, added: “Keep doing what you’re doing England. I wish you all the very best of luck tonight.”

Olympic diving medallist Tom Daley, 27, said: “I always want England to do well. I hope we have a successful Euros. If we get to the semi-final or final, I’ll be watching — let’s see how they do. Come on England!”

Dulwich-born Opera star Camilla Kerslake, 32, who is married to former England rugby captain Chris Robshaw, said: “We’ll be glued to the screens whatever the time difference from sunny California. So exciting to see fans back in stadiums cheering you on. You’re doing your nation proud and it’s coming home!”

Meanwhile, pop star Frankie Bridge, 32, who has two sons with retired England footballer Wayne Bridge, said: “Come on England! Me and my boys are so excited to watch the games and see the nation come together, especially after such a hard year. We’ve got our England flags at the ready, so best of luck team and do us all proud.”

For supermarkets the game will cap one of the biggest weeks of spending outside Christmas with millions of fans north and south of the border unable to get into pubs because of social-distancing rules and stocking up for home viewing instead.

Analysts Kantar estimated total supermarket sales totalling £350 million this week with customers making up to an extra 13 million visits to stores. Asda said it expected the month-long tournament to contribute to an 18 per cent rise in sales of barbecue food.

Pubs across the capital showing the game were almost all fully-booked today with Covid regulations requiring fans to watch from tables of up to six, rather than crammed standing at bars. A spokesman for the Stonegate Group, which runs hundreds of pubs in London, said: “It has been a long wait and we are geared up and ready to welcome customers back to our pubs for a terrific Euros sporting experience.

 (PA)
(PA)

“Our venues are booked to full capacity for all of the England and Scotland games within the current permitted government trading restrictions.”

Tom Helliwell, at the Woodman pub in Highgate, said: “The Euros are a great welcome to get people to come back to the pub. We have outdoor and indoor screens, which really helps. The difficulty is that all customers have to be seated and in their own groups. But even with the Euros we are still trading 35 per cent less than we should be, and with increased staff costs due to the additional labour required to implement a Covid safe environment.

“Basically, our costs are 20 per cent higher and our trade is 35 per cent lower. Even with a 250-seater beer garden and being next to the Tube station the Euros are only a brief ray of light in a very stormy cloud that isn’t going away quickly enough to save many pubs. Our trade is in need of far more help than the Government is offering.”

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