BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The Spanish soccer federation has offered Seville as an alternative host city for this year's European Championship if UEFA rules out using Bilbao as planned.
Federation president Luis Rubiales said Friday he has put forward La Cartuja Stadium in the southern Andalusia region as an alternative to San Mamés Stadium.
Last week, the federation announced that the current pandemic situation in Bilbao made it impossible for fans to be allowed into matches based on the regulations established by health authorities in the northern Basque Country region.
“With all my respect for what Bilbao has done, it is facing many difficulties and it would be terrible for another country to get the host city,” Rubiales said. “La Cartuja would be a magnificent site ... and the first option if Bilbao is finally discarded.”
The federation told The Associated Press that it would be up to regional authorities in Andalusia to decide whether fans could potentially be allowed into games in Seville.
Currently, there are no fans allowed into league or national team matches anywhere in Spain.
A Basque Country region spokesman said Friday that the local government has “not received any direct notification from UEFA” of a change of plans.
“If they changed their opinion, and we have to see if they do, then they would inform us. And if they did, they would have to give us an explanation,” regional official Bingen Zupiria said.
Other host cities for the tournament to be held around Europe between June 11 and July 11 have given assurances to UEFA that spectators will be allowed into stadiums.
A UEFA decision on Bilbao is expected soon.
La Cartuja Stadium is a publicly owned stadium run by Andalusia’s regional government. The stadium, which has a running track around the field, can hold 60,000 fans. Seville’s biggest soccer clubs, Sevilla and Real Betis, each have their own stadiums in the same city.
The stadium is set to host a second Copa del Rey final this month when Barcelona plays Athletic Bilbao on Saturday. It also hosted the delayed 2020 final two weeks ago, when Real Sociedad beat Athletic Bilbao. No fans have been allowed to attend either final.
UEFA has used another stadium in Seville, Sevilla’s Sánchez Pizjuán, as a replacement venue after the home team was eliminated from the Champions League. It hosted both legs of the Chelsea-Porto quarterfinal matchup because of travel restrictions between England and Portugal.
San Mamés Stadium in Bilbao is scheduled to host Spain’s Group E games against Sweden, Poland and Slovakia as well as one match in the round of 16.
The Basque Country region around Bilbao has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic in Spain. On Thursday, the region reported 358 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over 14 days, compared to 225 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in Seville's Andalusia region. Above 200 cases per 100,000 is considered high risk by authorities.
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