Euro 2020: Bilbao organisers react with fury after UEFA 'drops city' as one of tournament's hosts

Bilbao was one of 12 cities due to host games at this summer's Euro 2020; however, local authorities say UEFA have told them they have been dropped over a failure to guarantee capacities of at least 25 per cent in the San Mames

San Mames (AP)
Image: Athletic Bilbao's San Mames was due to host four games at Euro 2020

The Spanish city of Bilbao says it has been dropped as a venue for this year's European Championship after it was unable to guarantee organisers it could host enough fans in the stadium.

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

UEFA is scheduled to make a final decision on the hosting rights of Bilbao, Munich and Dublin, three of 12 proposed venues for the tournament, on Friday as they seek assurances that the trio will allow fans into their stadiums for the games.

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Sky Sports' Bryan Swanson and Paul Gilmour discuss the confirmation that UEFA have dropped Bilbao as a host city for Euro 2020 and that Dublin may soon follow suit.

But Bilbao authorities are furious and say they have already 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 long-standing experience and capability of the Basque authorities to manage and organise 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."

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UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin speaks during the 45th UEFA Congress in Montreux (AP)
Image: UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has been overseeing preparations for Euro 2020

The Bilbao authorities say they are now seeking compensation from UEFA, with the statement adding: "We have championed San Mames 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 dialogue, and working alongside the current host city.

"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.

The 51,700-capacity Aviva Stadium in Dublin is one of the venues selected to host Euro 2020 games
Image: Dublin's Aviva Stadium could also be dropped as a host

"This is in order to determine the compensation for the amounts invested to date in organising the event, which amount to more than €1.2m, as well as the quantification of the possible damages caused by said decision."

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 have been described by the RFEF as unrealistic.

The RFEF said 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 - something that has not impressed organisers 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 organising the event at San Mames," the statement said.

"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."

Sky Sports News has contacted UEFA for a response.

The nine venues that have so far been confirmed for Euro 2020, which was postponed and rescheduled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, have committed to allowing stadium capacities of 25 per cent, a number that authorities in Dublin and Munich are also battling to match.

When and where is Euro 2020?

The 16th UEFA European Championship runs from June 11 to July 11, 2021, and to celebrate the tournament's 60th birthday, 12 cities across the continent have been selected as hosts. The 12 cities and stadiums are:

  • Amsterdam (Netherlands) - Johan Cruyff Arena
  • Baku (Azerbaijan) - Olympic Stadium
  • Bilbao (Spain) - San Mames
  • Bucharest (Romania) - Arena Nationala
  • Budapest (Hungary) - Puskas Arena
  • Copenhagen (Denmark) - Parken Stadium
  • Dublin (Republic of Ireland) - Aviva Stadium
  • Glasgow (Scotland) - Hampden Park
  • London (England) - Wembley Stadium
  • Munich (Germany) - Allianz Arena
  • Rome (Italy) - Stadio Olimpico
  • Saint Petersburg (Russia) - Krestovsky Stadium

Rome's Stadio Olimpico will host the opening match on June 11, while England's national stadium Wembley will stage both semi-finals and the final.

As a result of the pan-European staging, no nation has been granted an automatic spot, with all 55 teams taking part in the qualification process.

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