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Dublin: 9°C Thursday 22 October 2020
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'It’s not ideal. People have paid a lot of money for tickets' - O'Neill on prospect of playing behind closed doors

The Ireland boss admits they will have no alternative but to comply with the extreme measures if they are taken at Euro 2016.

O'Neill in Dublin today.
O'Neill in Dublin today.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

IRELAND MANAGER MARTIN O’Neill says it would be unfortunate if his team were forced to play Euro 2016 matches behind closed doors, but added that the safety of those travelling to France is “of paramount importance”.

Yesterday’s terrorist attacks in Brussels have resulted in further debate about security concerns at this summer’s finals, with Uefa executive committee vice-president Giancarlo Abete suggesting that games could take place in empty stadiums – although a Uefa spokesperson has since denied that there are such plans in place.

It would an extreme measure to take which would leave tens of thousands of Irish fans who have booked to support the Boys in Green out of pocket.

Speaking after today’s training session at the FAI’s National Training Centre, O’Neill admitted they would reluctantly have to comply with Uefa’s decision.

“It’s very difficult if someone wants to make an attack as happened yesterday,” O’Neill said. “The security that we are being provided with is really excellent.

“They’re talking about matches being played behind closed doors but I think the safety of people is of paramount importance. We will fall in line with anything that is agreed upon.

If that is the only alternative then I think that we may have to comply with it if we want to enter the competition.

“It’s not ideal and people will have paid a lot of money to get tickets so if it comes to that it is going to be very difficult to deal with, but if that’s the only solution then we may have to go with it.”

The FAI’s Director of Communications Ian Mallon added that the association is working hard to ensure the team’s safety at the finals.

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“The events in Belgium have refocused attention on this phenomenon of global terror. The FAI will work, and be led by, an Garda Siochana, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Uefa in all matters of security around Euro 2016,” said Mallon.

“We’re in regular dialog and the consultation process was already there prior to yesterday. The association is also holding at least weekly planning sessions for Euro 2016, which have been ongoing since qualification last November.

“As you know, our first play-off game against Bosnia-Herzegovina took place on the night of the terrible attacks in Paris and since then safety and security of fans and the team has been of absolutely paramount importance.”

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Ben Blake

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