Angela Merkel has urged Boris Johnson to cut the crowds at the Euro 2020 semi-finals and final at Wembley, expressing "grave concerns" over plans.
Speaking at a press conference at Chequers, the chancellor noted that Germany’s cap of 14,500 on crowds was substantially lower than the 60,000 planned for the semi-finals and final.
She said: "I say this with grave concern. I have also said this to the Prime Minister. We in Germany, as you know, have less people attend games in the Munich stadium, but the British Government will obviously take its own decision. But I am very much concerned whether it is not a bit too much."
Mr Johnson defended the UK’s approach which has also included 40,000 fans at the Euro knock-out stages, saying sporting events were being opened up in a "very careful and controlled manner".
"The crucial point is that here in the UK we have now built up a very considerable wall of immunity by our vaccination programme," he said.
It follows a similar warning on Thursday by Horst Seehofer, the German interior minister, who criticised European football’s governing body Uefa as "utterly irresponsible" because of the risk of spreading Covid with such big crowds.
Mr Seehofer said matches with 60,000 spectators, such as those at Hungary’s Puskas Arena and Wembley, would inevitably promote the spread of Covid at a time of growing concern about the delta variant.
"Uefa’s position is utterly irresponsible," he said. "I cannot explain why Uefa is not being sensible. I suspect it is due to commercialism."
Earlier, Mr Johnson had introduced Mrs Merkel at the press conference with a joke about England’s 2-0 victory over Germany in the first knockout round of the Euros at Wembley last week.
Welcoming her on her 22nd visit to the UK in 16 years as chancellor, he noted: "It was certainly a tradition, Angela, for England to lose to Germany in international football tournaments, and I’m obviously grateful to you for breaking with that tradition just for once."
A good-humoured Ms Merkel shot back that it was "not a voluntary offer on my side in order to create the right climate" for their talks. Although the result was what it was, she said, England’s victory was "deserved" and she wished the team the "best of luck for all of the matches".