Venue for Northern Ireland’s Euro 2020 play-off semi-final changed poor condition of the pitch

Earlier this week, Irish FA confirms that Northern Ireland’s UEFA Euro 2020 play-off semi-final against Bosnia and Herzegovina next month has been moved to Sarajevo from Zenica. The Euro 2020 play-offs, now scheduled to take place on 8 October and 12 November will decide the final four places at the tournament. The match was due to have been played at Zenica’s Bilino Polje Stadium on October 8.

However, the Bosnia and Herzegovina Football Federation recently made a request to UEFA and the IFA regarding the possible change of venue from Zenica’s Bilino Polje to the Grbavica Stadium – home of Bosnian Premijer League club FK Zeljeznicar – in the capital city due to the poor condition of the pitch in Bilino Polje following a UEFA Nations League match against Poland earlier this month.

Following the discussion, the UEFA and the Irish FA have now both agreed to the switch. Stadium Grbavica was used for Northern Ireland’s last visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina for a UEFA Nations League fixture in 2018. Northern Ireland were defeated 2-0 in that encounter, with Roma striker Edin Dzekohitting the only two goals from that encounter and securing the win for the Bosnians.

Northern Ireland will fly to Bosnia and Herzegovina in three weeks as they bid to reach back-to-back European championships. Ian Baraclough’s side will also aim to recover from the devastating defeat against Norway in the Nations League last week, with Dortmund striker Erling Haaland bagged a brace as they netted five goals at home for the first time in almost 20 years.

On the same night as the play-off match in Sarajevo, Stephen Kenny’s Republic of Ireland side will be taking on Slovakia at the National Football Stadium in Bratislava. The winners of next month’s playoff semi-final will go on to host either the Republic of Ireland or Slovakia in a playoff final on November 12. All matches are reportedly going to be played behind closed doors.

Despite some member countries being “comfortable” about welcoming crowds back and having government support, with few domestic leagues planning to start season with fans in stadium, UEFA insist that it is “too soon” to allow supporters back into stadiums. Bayern won the Champions League and will play Europa League winner Sevilla in the Super Cup on Sept. 24 with fans.

The Supercup will be the first occasion where fans are allowed back into stadiums for UEFA and would serve as “a pilot test” before announcing bigger decisions. UEFA is using the game as a test event for allowing fans back into stadiums for its club and national team competitions. The governing body has yet to confirm if the Euro 2020 next year will be with fans in stadiums.