NYON, Switzerland (Reuters) - Brussels has lost the right to stage Euro 2020 matches following delays in the development of its new Eurostadium with the four games it was due to host going to London’s Wembley instead.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said on Thursday that those four matches would be in addition to the two semi-finals and final already scheduled to be played at England’s national stadium.
Wembley was preferred to Cardiff and Stockholm, which were both among the original 19 candidate cities for the tournament and had also been named by UEFA as possible replacements for Brussels.
The 2020 tournament is being played in 12 cities across Europe, instead of one or two host nations, as a one-off to celebrate the tournament’s 60th anniversary.
UEFA also announced that Rome’s Stadio Olimpico would host the opening match.
The building of the Brussels Eurostadium had run into delays involving the applications for construction and environmental permits.
“We discussed with Brussels for quite a long time and they were not able to provide us with all the documentation. Today we don’t know if they can build a stadium or not,” Ceferin told reporters.
“They still don’t have the documents... They didn’t expect a decision until January and they did not know whether that would be yes or no.
“Experts from (our) administration felt it was a high risk for UEFA to wait. If the answer had been no, it would have been a problem for us to find a new stadium.”
Koen De Brabander, chief executive of the Belgian Football Association, said in a statement that they did everything they could to make UEFA hold off.
“Missing out on Euro 2020 does not necessarily mean a death blow for our stadium plans,” he said. “We absolutely need a new 45,000-seat stadium and we hope that the competent ministers will grant the permit in January so that a stadium for the 21st century can finally be built in our country.”
UEFA also divided host cities into pairs, with each pair sharing matches in a given group.
It said that Group A would be played in Rome and Baku, Group B in St Petersburg and Copenhagen, Group C in Amsterdam and Bucharest, Group D in London and Glasgow, Group E in Bilbao and Dublin and Group F in Munich and Budapest.
UEFA said that each host nation that qualifies will play at least two matches at home in the group stage. None of the hosts qualify automatically.
The Welsh FA (FAW) said in a statement that it was “extremely disappointed” with the outcome.
“The concept of Euro 2020 to 13 different countries was devised to allow smaller countries, like Wales, to have a unique opportunity of being involved in staging a major tournament,” it said. “Wales has never staged a Euro or World Cup Final and this was its one and only chance of doing so.”
Additional reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Toby Davis