Belgium awaits UEFA move on Brussels stadium for Euro 2020
GENEVA (AP) Belgium’s football leaders are realistic about persuading UEFA to keep Brussels as a 2020 European Championship host city despite delays in building a stadium.
”We still believe, but we are realistic that it’s depending on other parties,” Belgian federation secretary general Koen de Brabander told reporters Tuesday on the sidelines of UEFA meetings. ”We as a federation are not in the lead to take decisions.”
UEFA’s executive committee can decide to replace the troubled 60,000-capacity Eurostadium project at a meeting Wednesday.
After fresh planning documents were filed last week in Brussels, UEFA could wait until a December executive meeting to finalize its 13-nation Euro 2020 hosting lineup. Eurostadium was picked to host three group-stage games and a Round of 16 knockout game.
Wales, which UEFA overlooked when choosing hosts in 2014, and France are two options to step in for the 24-team tournament.
Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium was tested in June, hosting the Champions League final, an event seen as compensation from UEFA for not getting on the Euro 2020 team. France did not propose a Euro 2020 city as it was due to host Euro 2016, and also will stage the 2019 Women’s World Cup for FIFA.
The Belgian federation met last week with UEFA, local lawmakers and Ghelamco, the construction firm which will own and run the stadium.
”It’s not our role to invest in concrete, and we don’t have the money for that,” De Brabander said.
The new venue is set to replace the King Baudouin Stadium – formerly known as Heysel – as the top choice to host Belgium’s national team games.
”Even if we are not meeting deadlines for UEFA, the stadium will continue,” De Brabander said. ”We need a new stadium because the King Baudouin is already renovated two times. For us, the stadium is not up to the standards we need.”
Eurostadium could still be delivered as promised in 2019 with a planned 15-18 months construction schedule, he said.
The delay comes as Belgium has its best team in 30 years, including star attackers Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku. It is the first European team to win its qualifying group for the 2018 World Cup, and poised to rise from No. 5 in the FIFA rankings.
When UEFA’s Nations League kicks off in September 2018, Belgium can expect more home games against high-ranked opponents in a four-tiered competition that groups teams only against others of a similar standard.
”We have a talented group of players,” De Brabander said. ”You need a stadium that allows you to play such matches.”