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Bilbao to be dropped as Euro 2020 host, Dublin also in doubt

Bilbao’s San Mamés is set to be dropped as a host venue for this summer’s rescheduled UEFA European Championships, while Dublin is also unlikely to stage matches amid continued doubts over the cities’ ability to welcome fans for the national team football tournament.

A statement published yesterday (Wednesday) by local authorities in Bilbao said that UEFA has removed the city from the hosting plan for Euro 2020. The local organising committee has rejected UEFA’s decision and has threatened to sue the governing body for what it views as a “unilateral” move.

Euro 2020 is due to take place from June 11 to July 11 in 12 cities across Europe. Earlier this month, UEFA granted Munich, Rome, Bilbao and Dublin extra time to provide additional information on their plans for the tournament after confirming what the remaining eight host cities – Baku, Copenhagen, St Petersburg, Amsterdam, Bucharest, London, Glasgow and Budapest – outlined as their fan attendance plans.

Since then, Rome has confirmed its host status after Italian authorities agreed to a plan that would allow at least 18,000 fans to attend matches at the Stadio Olimpico. Munich, Bilbao and Dublin have until tomorrow to draw up “concrete proposals” for a final decision on fan attendance but it appears that the latter two cities are set to be dropped from the hosting plan.

Bilbao is due to host Spain’s three group stage matches at Euro 2020, along with a round of 16 fixture. Dublin’s Aviva Stadium is also set to stage three group stage fixtures and a last 16 game.

Last week, the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) offered Seville’s Estadio de la Cartuja as an alternative to Bilbao amid doubts over the latter’s ability to stage matches. The stadium, which this week opened as a COVID-19 vaccination centre, hosted the finals of the 2019-20 and 2020-21 Copa del Rey earlier this month.

Bilbao’s city hall had told UEFA earlier this month that it was prepared to host Euro 2020 games at the 53,000-seat San Mamés at 25% capacity, but the RFEF later said that no agreement had been reached. The latest development appears to put an end to Bilbao’s hopes of staging matches.

Meanwhile, Dublin’s status also appears to be hanging by a thread after Irish Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar suggested that June may come “too soon” for Aviva Stadium to welcome fans.

Speaking to Irish radio station Today FM, Varadkar said: “The last I heard was that the organisers (UEFA) were looking at us to commit to have at least 25% of the stadium full. We’re cautious about that. We just think June is too soon. I think if they continue to insist on that, it will be hard for that to go ahead which is unfortunate.”

London’s Wembley Stadium would appear the likely candidate to step in if Aviva Stadium is unable to host matches, with the English FA having previously stated that it would be open to staging more games.

Image: Tiia Monto/CC BY-SA 3.0/Edited for size