Bilbao, Dublin fall from UEFA grace



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Bilbao dropped as host city for EURO 2020 Image: Bilbao Stadium

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Executive Committee met on April 23rd in the virtual mode to know the stance of the remaining three Euro 2020 host Cities – Munich (Germany), Bilbao (Spain) and Dublin (Ireland) – as regards giving fans access to the UEFA soccer showpiece.

Earlier, UEFA had handed down the remaining four host Cities of Euro 2020 – Munich (Germany), Rome (Italy), Bilbao (Spain), and Dublin (Ireland) – a deadline of April 19th to provide additional information on their plans as regarding giving fans access after they failed to commit to allowing supporters into the stadia. Rome had recently decided to allow limited fans for the soccer spectacle.

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) is the administrative body for football, futsal and beach soccer in Europe. It is one of the six continental confederations of world football’s governing body FIFA. UEFA consists of 55 national association members.

The UEFA Euro 2020 was postponed in March 2020 due to the global outbreak of coronavirus. As per the revised dates, it will be taking place from June 11th to July 11th, 2021.

The 2020 UEFA European Football Championship, commonly referred to as UEFA Euro 2020 or simply Euro 2020, is scheduled to be the 16th UEFA European Championship, the quadrennial international men’s football championship of Europe organized by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).
 

UEFA verdict

 

Rome toe the line

While Rome (Italy) recently decided to toe the UEFA line with the latter receiving on April 14th from the Italian Football Association, confirmation from the Italian Government that the UEFA Euro 2020 matches scheduled for the 70,000-capacity Stadio Olimpico in Rome (Italy) will take place with spectators.

The authorities have guaranteed at least 25 percent of the stadium’s capacity will be filled which means at least 18,000 fans will be able to attend games at the Stadio Olimpico.
 

Munich by the UEFA book

The ‘UEFA’ stated that it was informed by the local authorities that all four UEFA Euro 2020 matches in Munich (Germany) will be able to welcome a minimum of 14,500 spectators. Munich was therefore confirmed as a host venue for the championship.

The UEFA Executive Committee decided that Munich will keep both the planned group games and the one quarter-final game. The Government of the Free State of Bavaria (Munich is the capital and largest City of the German State of Bavaria) had given its nod for 14,500 spectators at the last minute after midnight oil was burn to discuss the issue of allowing fans for the Euro 2020 extravaganza.

The German group stage games against France (June 15th), Portugal (June 19th) and Hungary (June 23rd) can be played in Munich in front of 14,500 spectators. The quarter-finals scheduled for July 2nd in the 75,024-capacity Allianz Arena in Munich will also take place.

The German Football Association (DFB) stated, “Though the COVID-19 situation in Germany is still grim, it is expected that the scenario will improve by June. Therefore, a minimum of 14,500 viewers at Munich is considered realistic for Euro 2020. The basic support for the tournament will be maintained though a hawk eye will be kept on the pandemic situation.”
 

UEFA heave-ho to Bilbao, Dublin

Bilbao and Dublin will no longer be playing host to the sporting extraordinaire with the UEFA Executive Committee deciding to reallocate some of the UEFA Euro 2020 matches.
 

Bilbao booted out

‘UEFA’ further stated that the four matches initially scheduled to take place in Bilbao (Spain) will be moved to the 60,000-capacity Estadio La Cartuja in Seville, Spain. The hosting of these matches is supported by the Autonomous Community of Andalusia, which has confirmed its intention of allowing spectators at 30 percent of the stadium capacity for the three Group E matches and a round of 16 matches.

Looking at the COVID seesaw all over the globe, the local authorities in Bilbao decided that fans in Bilbao will not be able to grace Euro 2020 matchups. Therefore, with the assistance of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), the UEFA proposed to move those matches to another venue in Spain itself, with the simple logic of allowing fans to attend the games after a year of not being able to watch live football in stadia. This decision will allow a festive atmosphere at all matches taking place in UEFA’s flagship national team competition.

‘Sky Sports’ reported that UEFA have told the Bilbao authorities that they have been dropped over a failure to guarantee capacities of at least 25 percent in the 53,289-capacity all-seater football stadium San Mamés in Bilbao.

Authorities in Bilbao have confirmed that the City will miss out on the June 11th-July 11th soccer extravaganza, having been due to host Spain’s Group E games against Poland, Sweden and Slovakia, as well as a round-of-16 match.
 

Bilbao fret and fume

‘Sky Sports’ further reported that the Bilbao authorities are seething with fury stating they have received a letter from UEFA informing them of the decision to move the matches elsewhere.

A statement read, “Bilbao will not host games at Euro 2020. However, we won’t allow Bilbao or the Basque institutions to be taken for a ride. Nor are we going to allow the proven and longstanding experience and capability of the Basque authorities to manage and organize international events to be called into question. We will not allow doubts to persist regarding the approach to this project, in which over a timespan of more than six years, the Basque way of doing things has prevailed: Seriousness, coherence, professionalism, and responsibility.”

The Bilbao authorities is going ahead and seeking compensation from UEFA, with the statement adding, “We have championed San Mamés as a host stadium and worked tirelessly in order to host Euro 2020 games at the venue, as contractually established in 2014. We have strictly complied with each and every one of the conditions and duties indicated in the document signed by both parties, with no exceptions to the aforementioned conditions and duties. For this reason, we asked UEFA on various occasions in recent days to inform us in writing which were the aspects of the contract that we have ceased to fulfil, on which they are basing their decision to withdraw Bilbao as a Euro 2020 host City, and also where in the contract it allows for changing a host City without consulting, establishing dialog, and working alongside the current host City.”

The statement continued, “We, therefore, believe that we have not been given a convincing explanation. No such explanation exists. The contract between us, UEFA and the RFEF (Spanish FA), as well as UEFA’s official statement, is already in the hands of legal services to be studied and evaluated. This is in order to determine the compensation for the amounts invested to date in organizing the event, which amount to more than €1.2m, as well as the quantification of the possible damages caused by the said decision.”

The RFEF termed as “unrealistic” the strict health protocols in the Basque region that have been set out as a pre-requisite by the local Government to allow supporters in the stands.

The RFEF stating last week they would offer Seville’s La Cartuja stadium as an alternative venue for Euro 2020 matches should Bilbao be stripped of its games – has not gone down well with organizers in Bilbao – “It is clear that the unilateral decision taken by UEFA and the attitude of the current RFEF are not shared by the Basque institutions organizing the event at San Mamés. We hold them directly responsible for us not staging this sporting event and for the unilateral cancellation of our contractual relationships and the necessary financial compensation for this reason. They will have to explain the reasons and what the negotiations and conditions are – public health, economic and contractual – established with a new host City, which some parties are already disrespectfully putting forward, without an official UEFA meeting even taking place.” (Read this statement was given before the UEFA’s April 23rd decision).
 

Dublin acquiesce

The UEFA also decided in its Executive Committee meeting that the three Group E matches initially scheduled for Dublin (Ireland) will be reallocated to the Saint Petersburg Stadium (Russia), which is already hosting three Group B matches and a quarter-final.

The three Group E matches – Poland vs. Slovakia on June 14th, Sweden vs. Slovakia four days later and the meeting of Poland and the Swedes on the final day of the group stage, June 23rd – will be reassigned to St Petersburg, which had committed a 50 percent capacity for the four matches they were previously granted.

The round of 16 match initially scheduled in Dublin will be moved to the 90,000-capacity Wembley Stadium in London.

The UEFA confirmed to the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) that the four games have been moved due to the public health situation in Ireland. UEFA had required an assurance of a minimum of 25 percent spectator attendance at each game which the Irish Government was unable to meet.

The UEFA also confirmed to the FAI that they are “welcoming a candidature by Dublin to host one of the European club finals after 2023”.

Dublin was one of 12 Cities granted staging rights in 2014 as part of a new format to mark the tournament’s 60th anniversary but COVID-19 played spoilsport.

After being forced to postpone the spectacular event by 12 months, UEFA sought guarantees from the respective Governments of the host Cities as regards minimum spectator numbers amid the vaccination program being rolled out across Europe.

Dublin lost the hosting rights because they are not even open to the idea of a pilot. So, allowing 25 percent capacity is something which Ireland’s capital cannot even think of as COVID-19 continues to beat the country to pulp.

Ticket revenue takes topmost priority in UEFA’s selection criteria, and the UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin made it very clear earlier in the year that Euro 2020 will not be a closed-door affair.

Lamented FAI CEO Jonathan Hill, “This is disappointing news for our own FAI staff and for so many people who have been working tirelessly on the project for over seven years now including our bid partners at the Dublin City Council, Government and the Aviva Stadium and we want to thank them, the LOS team and all our partners for their support and in particular our 1200 volunteers.”

Added Hill, “Let’s be clear we were ready to host the games if we were allowed to but the reality is that since the turn of the year the pandemic situation here in Ireland has worsened rather than improved and much as UEFA wanted to have fans in our stadia, the Government, as hard as they tried, couldn’t find a way to allow us to have the 25 percent that UEFA wanted. In the end, as we have done across the last 12 months, we respected the Government’s position and ultimately public safety is the most important thing.”
 

Čeferin standpoint

UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin maintained, “We have been working diligently with the host associations and the local authorities to ensure a safe and festive environment at the games and I am really pleased that we are able to welcome spectators at all matches for a celebration of national team football across the continent.”

Added Čeferin, “UEFA wishes to express its appreciation and gratitude to the Cities of Bilbao and Dublin – both of which are considered as good venues to host future UEFA events – the national and regional Governments of Spain and the Republic of Ireland, and all local stakeholders for their dedication, professionalism and efforts over the past years.”

He further stated, “UEFA would also like to thank the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) and its dedicated staff for their excellent collaboration and hard work, and is looking forward to continuing to work with the remaining 11 host associations in delivering UEFA EURO 2020 matches.

Amsterdam (Netherlands), Baku (Azerbaijan), Seville (Spain), Bucharest (Romania), Budapest (Hungary), Copenhagen (Denmark), Glasgow (UK), London (UK), Munich (Germany), Rome (Italy), and Saint Petersburg (Russia) are the host Cities for the Euro 2020 sporting extraordinaire.
 

Ticket info

All tickets for matches in Bilbao and Dublin will be canceled. All impacted ticket buyers will receive a full refund for the face value of their canceled tickets.

Further details about tickets sales for the reorganized matches in London, Saint Petersburg and Seville will be communicated on EURO2020.com/tickets and via email to the existing ticket buyers.

Importantly, existing ticket buyers for Bilbao and Dublin will receive priority access on a first-come, first-served basis to future ticket sales windows for the corresponding reorganized fixtures.

For any future ticket sales via Participating National Associations sales programs, the rules of the respective fan clubs will apply.

Fans are encouraged to carefully consider border entry restrictions and requirements and can find detailed information on the official spectator event guide, available on EURO2020.com and the UEFA EURO 2020 App, with additional information about COVID-19 mitigation measures at the stadium and travel information for each host City.
 

Follow My Team ticket buyers

Considering the location for most knock-out matches is unknown until completion of the group-stage, and the existing significant travel restrictions, UEFA has decided to cancel and refund all Follow My Team tickets.

Importantly, the quota of Follow My Team tickets for the knockout stage matches will remain reserved for fans of the qualified teams, which will (subject to the rules of the respective fan clubs) still give them the opportunity to purchase tickets at a later stage, should their team progress and should travel restrictions permit them to reach the match venue at short notice.

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