Cologne’s Lanxess Arena has secured hosting rights to basketball’s 2021 EuroLeague Final Four, along with being confirmed as the destination for the European Handball Federation’s (EHF) Final4 later this year.

Euroleague Basketball was originally due to stage this year’s edition of its showpiece event in the German city, only for the organisation to decide to cancel its 2019-20 competitions back in May due to the impact of COVID-19.

Cologne will now become the focal point of European basketball from May 28-30, 2021, with the 18,000-capacity Lanxess Arena to play host. “In the same way that we honoured the aspirations of the teams whose seasons were cut short last spring, we were equally determined to bring the Final Four to Cologne for the same compelling reasons that we originally chose to go there,” said Jordi Bertomeu, Euroleague Basketball president and CEO.

“Staging the first Final Four of this decade in a superb arena and a vibrant major city without its own team in our competitions shows how dedicated we are to bringing new fans to the EuroLeague.”

Cologne joins two-time host Berlin, which was the venue in 2009 and 2016, as the second German city to host the event this century. Cologne also becomes the fourth city without a local Euroleague Basketball club to host a Final Four this century. The 2021 Final Four will culminate a season in which two German teams, ALBA Berlin and FC Bayern Munich, will be among those competing, highlighting the importance of Germany as a strategic market for Euroleague Basketball.

Mayor of Cologne, Henriette Reker, said: “Euroleague Basketball’s announcement that Cologne’s Lanxess Arena is to host the 2021 Final Four is an important signal in general as well as for Cologne as a city of sports.

“It’s essential we do everything we possibly can to make sure sporting and cultural events really can take place again – with spectators – next year. I’m delighted for the basketball teams, the fans, Lanxess Arena, which has been hit hard by the corona pandemic, and, of course, our city that, after the cancellation of the 2020 event, EuroLeague has decided to keep Cologne as the host.”

Meanwhile, the EHF has claimed a significant step forward in its ‘Back to Handball’ strategy after confirming that its 2020 Final4 will remain in its traditional home on December 28-29, with fans targeted to be in the arena.

The news represents confirmation of the long-standing partnership between the EHF, EHF Marketing, the City of Cologne and Lanxess Arena which has seen 10 successful editions of the EHF’s club competition showpiece since 2010. In December 2018, a deal was reached to extend the hosting agreement through to 2024.

Preparations for the 2020 event have started and spectator concepts are being worked on. These will be coordinated with the authorities in Cologne and in North Rhine-Westphalia as well as with partners such as the Lanxess Arena.

Despite the challenging circumstances, the EHF said interest in the event has remained high and less than 3% of all tickets sold have been returned. However, in order to create the ideal capacity concept, all tickets that have already been purchased will be refunded. Depending on the final arena set-up, a new sales process may be initiated.

David Szlezak, EHF Marketing managing director, said: “’We play handball’ is one of our core claims. With the health situation and the Velux EHF Final4 in mind, this can be translated to ‘we want to play’ because we believe it’s in the best interest of the sport and its partners.”

The qualified teams for the 2020 Final4 are Barça, Paris Saint-Germain HB, THW Kiel and Telekom Veszprém HC.

Image: KölnTourismus