Finnish Football Association chair Ari Lahti has said that this summer’s European Championships, which were postponed from last year due to the coronavirus epidemic, may have to be played in front of empty stadiums.
The championships will be the first time the Finnish men's senior team appear at a finals tournament.
"My personal guess is that the European Championships will be played in one form or another, but the current pace of vaccination seems to be insufficient and June will come around very quickly," Lahti said at a remotely-held media event hosted by the association.
"It may be that the buzz of attending a finals tournament [for fans] will not be possible this time."
However, the FA chair added that it is not yet time to 'throw a stone into the well', a Finnish proverb meaning to give up all hope.
"I know that the financial importance of playing the finals tournament to [European football’s governing body] Uefa is so huge that it will be played," said Lahti.
"Uefa is currently considering several different options for how to host the tournament. The extreme option is to have fewer than 12 match locations, with bubble-like conditions. We will receive more information during February, and decisions will be made in early March."
Pandemic impacting player numbers, finances
The coronavirus pandemic has also affected the number of people playing football in Finland, Lahti said, citing recent research which suggested that the number of people playing the game decreased by 6.3 percent last year.
"It is a matter of concern," said Lahti. "We have to take care of all aspects. This doesn’t mean going back to the training halls at the risk of children’s health, but that step by step we can start practising again," he said, adding that the pandemic has also had a huge impact on the finances of Finland’s football clubs."
"Preliminary information is that the income of clubs in the Veikkausliiga [Finland’s top division] fell by an average of one-fifth last year compared to the previous year. Another concern relates to futsal, which is currently being played without spectators. The third concern is the financial situation of football arenas."