La Copa finals fall in ‘La Cartuja’s’ kitty


Sevilla Estadio de la Cartuja Image: Manuel Gomez

Spanish city Seville has been awarded a four-year contract by the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) to host the next four finals of the Copa del Rey until 2023, and the event will be held at a revamped Estadio de la Cartuja in Seville. It will inject an estimated €43m (£36.5m) to Seville’s economy each year.

The Copa del Rey, which was initially scheduled to take place at Estadio de la Cartuja in Seville on April 18 this year, did not take place as Spain took a hard beating due to COVID-19.

The 57,000-plus multipurpose stadium Estadio de la Cartuja was built in 1999 for the World Athletics Championships. It is not home to any LaLiga club.

Copa del Rey or simply La Copa is an annual knockout football competition in Spanish football, organized by the Royal Spanish Football Federation. The competition was founded in 1903, thus making it the oldest Spanish football tournament.

It is the first time that the RFEF has assigned hosting rights for the final of the club knockout competition on a long-term basis.

Seville’s candidacy, led by the Junta de Andalucía with the support of the City Council of Seville, the Provincial Council and LaLiga clubs Sevilla and Real Betis, defeated a rival bid from Madrid. José Luis Martínez-Almeida, the Mayor of Madrid, had submitted a bid to the RFEF in the month of January for the Wanda Metropolitano, home of Atlético de Madrid, to host the final.

In 2019, the RFEF approved changes to the Copa del Rey for the 2019-20 season onwards, switching the tournament to a single-match format with the exception of the semi-finals which will remain a two-leg tie. Where the spectacular showpiece will be held – this issue has always been mired in controversy as Spain does not boast a national football stadium.

Javier Imbroda, Minister of Education and Sports for the Junta de Andalucía, said securing the contract has given the region the opportunity to host “one of the great sporting events held in Spain, with great impact internationally”.

Andalucía – a large autonomous region of hills, rivers and farmland bordering Spain’s southern coast – has played host to four Copa del Rey finals, all of them in Seville. Two were played at Estadio de la Cartuja, the first in its opening year, 1999, and the second in 2001. However, the 57,000-capacity stadium has had a chequered history. It was initially developed for Seville’s staging of the 1999 World Athletics Championships, but is lying inactive since then after legacy plans for Spanish professional football clubs Sevilla and Betis to share the venue failed to translate into reality.

Estadio de la Cartuja was included as the centerpiece of Seville’s failed bids for the 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympic Games, while it also hosted football’s UEFA Cup final in 2003. The stadium was the setting for Spain’s 2004 and 2011 Davis Cup tennis finals, while it has also been used as a concert venue.

The stadium has remained closed since 2018 after local authorities decided that its roof required total revamp work which would be an expensive affair. Imbroda said the stadium now has the necessary safety certificates to reopen with work carried out in the month of January and February, at a cost of over €1m ($1.1m), to repair the roof. The contract with the RFEF includes a clause allowing a percentage of the gate receipts for the Copa del Rey final to be directed towards future stadium reconfiguration work. The necessary renovation works have now been made for it to reopen and the running track around the outside of the pitch will be scrapped.

Imbroda added, “We have to congratulate ourselves on this winning deal, which allows us to relaunch a top-level facility such as the Estadio de la Cartuja, a five-star stadium… with a heritage for all Andalusians that this Government will again value, after 19 months closed. The (Copa del Rey) will generate value and resources, because the expected economic impact of each of these finals is about €43m.”

The 60,000 seats of the stadium make it one of the largest arenas in Spain, well ahead of city rival Sevilla’s Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan at 42,700 and just behind Real Betis’ 60,700-seater Benito Villamarin just across the city.

‘Spectators raison d’être’

Spanish sports club Real Sociedad and Spanish professional football club Athletic Bilbao have agreed to ask that the Copa del Rey final be held with spectators present.

Sport in Spain has been on hold since March due to the coronavirus pandemic and there is no date scheduled for the resumption of LaLiga or the postponed Copa final.

Clubs were granted permission to return to hold individual training sessions recently with the proviso that strict protocols be followed.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said he was optimistic sport could return soon but it would likely be behind closed doors.

However, the Basque rivals will request that measure does not apply to their Copa final and it is held in the presence of fans.

A joint-statement published by Athletic and La Real read: “The Presidents of Real Sociedad and Athletic Club, both finalists of the Copa del Rey for the 2019-2020 seasons, after meeting with the President of the Royal Spanish Football Federation [RFEF], have agreed to ask RFEF for the final to be played with open doors, in public and in an official way, on a date to be determined and agreed between the three parties involved.”

“The desire and will of both clubs has always been, now and before, to play and enjoy the final along with the supporters. This is what we would like most. A final to be lived with our supporters in the stands. At the same time, Real Sociedad and Athletic Club want the RFEF to guarantee that the final will be played as an official competition and will, therefore, be considered an official title,” the statement further read.

“With this decision, Real Sociedad and Athletic Club wish to highlight one of the most prestigious and traditional sporting events that can be played around the world, unique in this edition, and to do so together with their fans, supporters, subscribers, members and partners, the true essence, and raison d’être of this wonderful sport,” the statement concluded.

Minerva Santana of LaLiga, Spain and Juan Iraola of Real Sociedad, Spain, will be the speakers at the Coliseum Summit EUROPE to be held at Ascot Racecourse in UK on September 2-3, 2020.

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