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Brussels loses Euro 2020 matches to Wembley

Wembley Stadium in London will host seven matches in total for the Euro 2020 tournament, including the two semi-finals and the final on July 12, 2020 © AFP/File / ADRIAN DENNIS

NYON, Switzerland, Dec 7Wembley Stadium in London will host four Euro 2020 matches originally set to be staged in Brussels, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said on Thursday.

Brussels had been one of 13 venues picked to host this unique edition of the European Championship — to celebrate the tournament’s 60th anniversary — held across the continent rather than in a single host country.

But the European football governing body’s executive committee decided “unanimously” to strip Brussels of its four matches due to the inability of Belgian organisers to guarantee the new stadium where they would have been held could be built in time.

Wembley will now host seven matches in total, having already been allocated the two semi-finals and the final on July 12, 2020.

UEFA also announced the opening game on June 12, 2020, would be held at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico.

“Due to the Eurostadium project’s failure to meet the conditions imposed by the UEFA Executive Committee during its meeting of 20 September 2017, the four matches (three group, one round of 16) initially scheduled to be held in Brussels will now be allocated to London’s Wembley Stadium following a vote by the committee,” said Ceferin.

“We discussed with Brussels for quite a long time, they were not able to provide us with all the documentation.

“Until today we don’t know if they can build a stadium or not.

“They still don’t have the documents. They had time until today’s executive committee (meeting) and they didn’t do it.

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“We received a letter yesterday that 31st of January there will be a final decision but the decision — yes or no — they don’t know.

“Experts from administration had the opinion it was a high risk for UEFA if we wait.”

The company contracted to build the stadium in the northern suburb of Grimbergen, BTP Ghelamco, said they were able to build the 60,000-capacity Eurostadium in 18 months, but the Flanders region in which it will be situated has yet to issue a building permit.

– ‘Not the end’ –

“Right up until the last moment we did the utmost to try to get an extra delay from UEFA, but we respect their decision,” said the Belgian federation in a statement.

However they said UEFA’s decision “does not necessarily signify the end of the stadium project”.

“We absolutely need a new 45,000-capacity stadium and we hope the competent ministers grant the permit in January so that a stadium fit for the 21st century can finally be built in our country,” said federation president Gerard Linard.

Brussels has hoped to construct a new stadium ever since the Heysel stadium disaster, when 39 people died before the start of the 1985 European Cup final between Juventus and Liverpool.

A refurbished Heysel, called the King Baudouin Stadium, staged matches at Euro 2000, which Belgium co-hosted with the Netherlands.

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A draw was also held on Thursday to decide which cities would host games from the various groups.

Rome and Baku will host Group A, Saint Petersburg and Copenhagen Group B, Amsterdam and Bucharest Group C, London and Glasgow Group D, Bilbao and Dublin Group E, with Munich and Budapest the Group F venues.

Host countries are guaranteed at least two home group stage matches if they qualify, meaning England and Scotland would be in the same group if they both reach the finals.

Likewise world champions Germany would be paired with Hungary.

UEFA also decided on the seedings and draw procedure for the new UEFA Nations League, which will replace most friendlies over the next couple of years but also offers a potential path to the European Championship.

The draw will take place on January 24.

UEFA said Russia and Ukraine would be kept apart in the group stage, as would Armenia and Azerbaijan.

A conflict between the first two broke out in 2014 that resulted in Russia annexing Crimea from Ukraine, while the second two fought a war in the early 1990s that never resulted in a peace treaty.

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