Bilbao fury as Euro 2020 hosting looks to have evaporated over fan guarantees

By Samindra Kunti

April 22 – The Spanish city of Bilbao looks to have become the first city to drop out of hosting Euro 2020 matches this summer, according to a statement published by the regional authorities on Wednesday.

The Basque city was due to stage three group stage matches and a round of 16 encounter at Euro 2020.

On Monday UEFA extended their deadline for host cities Bilbao, Dublin and Munich to provide more information and guarantees over fan attendance, but local organisers said on Wednesday they had received “official communication from UEFA in which, unilaterally, it has made the decision to withdraw the San Mames stadium from the hosting of Euro 2020”.

“Euro 2020 will not be played in Bilbao. But we are not going to allow them to play games with Bilbao and the Basque institutions,” read an angry statement from Bilbao.

“We have not found a single reason, sporting, social or economic, and certainly not related to public health and measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, in any of the UEFA communications.”

Bilbao is seeking legal advice and the city wants to recoup the costs it has incurred if Bilbao does not host Euro 2020 matches.

“The contract that unites us with UEFA and with the RFEF and the official communication of UEFA is already in the hands of the legal services of the so-called ‘Bilbao Committee’ for study and evaluation,” the statement added.

“And so that the compensation of the amounts invested to date in organising the event, which amounts to more than €1.2 million, as well as the possible damages caused by said decision can be evaluated.”

The president of the Spanish football federation (RFEF) Luis Rubiales has previously suggested that Seville’s La Cartuja stadium could step in to replace Bilbao, with both the Basque city and government insisting on strict health measures being met by the time of the continental finals, including that 60% of the region’s population be vaccinated before June 14.

To date, nine of the twelve host cities for Euro 2020 have offered guarantees to UEFA that they will allow crowds of at least 25% of capacity of stadia for the tournament.

The pan-European finals were the brainchild of former UEFA president and disgraced official Michel Platini, but the format has left the European governing major scrambling as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to rage across the continent. On Friday, UEFA is due to take a final decision on which cities will host the finals after extending the deadline multiple times.

Euro 2020 will kick off on June 11 before reaching a climax a month later. The tournament had to be postponed for a year because of the global health crisis.

Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1638844650labto1638844650ofdlr1638844650owedi1638844650sni@o1638844650fni1638844650