The Euro 2016 finals in Paris will provide a "powerful response" to the Paris terrorist attacks carried out by so-called Islamic State, a senior member of the French government has told Sky News.
Speaking on the eve of the finals draw in Paris, four weeks to the day after the attacks that left 130 dead, Patrick Kanner, minister for youth & sport in Francois Hollande's government, said that France had a responsibility to host a tremendous tournament.
He moreover urged fans of England, Wales, Northern Ireland & the Republic of Ireland to travel to France, insisting that security will be a priority.
"The Euro 2016 football tournament will be the biggest international event to be hosted in France next year. And so we must succeed in making these Euros the best, most powerful response of international solidarity, going against everything that Daesh represents in the world today," he said.
"I would like to say to all the British people, British friends: don't be afraid, come to France next year for the sport, for the football, to celebrate the friendship between all the people in the world."
Security for the tournament has become a priority following the attacks, which saw three suicide bombers target the Stade de France in Paris, venue for the opening game & the final next summer.
The authorities have committed to retainingÂ fanzones in each of the 10 host cities across France, as well as increasing security checks around stadiums.
More than 100,000 fans from the UK & Ireland are expected to travel to France, with supporters of Wales & Northern Ireland relishing their first chance to attend a finals tournament in 58 & 30 years respectively.
Jonathan Ford, chief executive of the FA of Wales, said that while security planning would be a priority, most fans would be preoccupied with getting tickets.
He said: "I received a comical Christmas card today saying Santa has had three million requests for tickets, & only nine for train sets."
England are among the top seeds, meaning they will avoid favourites France, Germany & Spain in the group stage.
Wales & both Irish sides are ranked among the lowest six teams, meaning only one of them can be paired with England.
The teams will be drawn into six groups of four, with two from each group, plus the four best third-placed teams, qualifying for the knockout stages.
England manager Roy Hodgson said he was pleased to be seeded: "There were only five places, so it was satisfactory to obtain one of those five. So to be in that top pool & avoid five other very strong teams is obviously a very huge advantage."
One man who will not be in Paris is former UEFA President Michel Platini, who failed in an attempt to have his provisional ban from football overturned at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Source: “Sky News”