Bulgarian government backs bid for 2020 match

SOFIA Wed Aug 28, 2013 1:05pm BST

Bulgarian Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski speaks during an interview with Reuters in his office in Sofia July 26, 2013. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

Bulgarian Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski speaks during an interview with Reuters in his office in Sofia July 26, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Stoyan Nenov

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SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria's Socialist-led government has thrown its weight behind a possible bid by Sofia to be one of the cities hosting Euro 2020 matches, the cabinet's press office said in a statement on Wednesday.

The government, led by non-partisan Plamen Oresharski, announced last week that it had held preliminary talks with the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) to discuss whether the capital could host such event.

"The state categorically supports the BFU for the bid to host the Euro 2020 (match)," Sports Minister Mariana Georgieva told reporters. "The prime minister is personally involved in this case.

"We already had a meeting with (BFU's president Borislav) Mihaylov. The state is aware that this is a huge challenge but we're responsible and we're adamant about our support."

Earlier this year, European soccer's governing body UEFA said that Euro 2020 will be held in 13 cities across the continent rather than one or two countries in a radical departure from the traditional format for major tournaments.

UEFA said 12 cities would be awarded a package of three group games plus one knockout-stage game, either from the round-of-16 or quarter-finals.

A special 13th package would be awarded, consisting of the two semi-finals and final with UEFA eager to split the costs for the bigger tournament and celebrate its 60th anniversary across Europe.

Bulgarian authorities, who considered a joint bid for Euro 2020 with neighbouring Romania before UEFA's format change, are yet to decide whether they'll build a new stadium.

The Vasil Levski national stadium, located in the centre of Sofia, has 43,230 seats but needs to be renovated to meet UEFA criteria.

The former Yugoslavia is the only Balkan country to have hosted a European championship finals. In 1976, the final four-team tournament was held in Belgrade and Zagreb.

UEFA will announce the Euro 2020 bids in September with several countries already seeking to host matches.

Germany's football association (DFB) said it could bid for the semi-finals and final if Turkey's Istanbul lands the 2020 Olympics, which will be decided next month in Buenos Aires.

Munich has already launched its candidacy and Berlin's Olympic stadium would be another strong contender.

(Reporting by Angel Krisimirov, editing by Alan Baldwin)

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