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UEFA suspends games in Armenia and Azerbaijan, offers Euros assurance

UEFA has announced the suspension of its club and national team competition matches in Armenia and Azerbaijan until further notice, but has maintained that Baku’s status as a host city for the rescheduled European Championships is not under threat.

European football’s governing body has made the decision due to the security situation in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, with the historic dispute over the territory having flared up again last month.

UEFA said in a statement: “After having carefully monitored the evolution of the situation which broke out late September –  which has already led to the relocation of a UEFA Europa League play-off and two UEFA Nations League matches to neutral venues – UEFA is of the opinion that, at the present time, the conditions to stage UEFA matches in these countries are not met.

“The Football Federation of Armenia and the Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan, including their respective clubs, will be asked to propose alternative venues for their next UEFA competition matches to be played at home.”

In June, Baku’s Olympic Stadium was reconfirmed as all 12 host cities were locked in for the rescheduled Euro 2020. Postponed this summer due to COVID-19, the Euros will now take place from June 11 to July 11 next year, with Baku’s 68,000-capacity venue due to stage three group games, plus a quarter-final.

UEFA added: “The situation in the region will be monitored and the decision taken by the UEFA Executive Committee does not affect the ongoing planning for the staging of UEFA Euro 2020 matches in Baku in June next year.”

Azerbaijan and Armenia this month played home games in Albania and Poland, respectively, due to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. The region lies within Azerbaijan’s borders but has been controlled by ethnic Armenian forces since 1994. A separatist war had commenced after the breakup of the Soviet Union three years earlier.

UEFA has already lost one host city for the special edition of its European Championships. In December 2017, it was announced that London’s Wembley Stadium will now stage seven games after Brussels was stripped of its hosting rights.

UEFA opted to reassign the Belgian city’s games to Wembley due to issues surrounding Brussels’ planned Eurostade – a project that ultimately collapsed.

Image: Baku Olympic Stadium