Atletico’s new home lands Champions League final, Uefa signs EPFL pact

Atletico Madrid’s new stadium, the Wanda Metropolitano, will host the 2018-19 Uefa Champions League final while Baku’s Olympic Stadium gained the consolation prize of the Europa League final, as European football’s governing body agreed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Association of European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL).

The Spanish LaLiga club inaugurated its 67,500-seat home (pictured) on Saturday with a 1-0 win over Malaga and it will now stage European club football’s showpiece game next season. The Azerbaijani capital’s venue has already secured rights to games during the Euro 2020 national team tournament and was bidding against Madrid for the Champions League final.

However, it will settle for the Europa League final after seeing off the rival claims of Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán in Seville, Spain and Beşiktaş Arena in Istanbul, Turkey. The latter stadium has instead secured the 2019 Super Cup, the annual fixture between the Champions League and Europa League winners. 

Tirana, Albania (Qemal Stafa Stadium); Toulouse, France (Stadium de Toulouse); Haifa, Israel (Sammy Ofer Stadium); Astana, Kazakhstan (Astana Arena); Belfast, Northern Ireland (Windsor Park) and Gdansk, Poland (Arena Gdańsk) had also bid for the Super Cup.

In other hosting news, Ferencváros Stadium in Budapest, Hungary has secured the 2018-19 Women’s Champions League final. Astana Arena had also bid for the game. Uefa has returned to a bidding process for its showpiece club events and has provided an update on the status of Brussels as a host city for Euro 2020.

The new Eurostadium project in the Belgian capital has been encountering difficulties and Uefa has requested that all relevant permits to start construction, as well as a “realistic and guaranteed” construction schedule, be obtained by November 20.

With this in mind, a fast-track process has been started to develop a replacement option. Uefa said these options are Stockholm, Sweden and Cardiff, Wales – both candidates from the original bidding process for Euro 2020. However, it added that London’s Wembley stadium, which has secured the main semi-finals and final hosting package, is the only current host with availability to host all the matches that should be played in Brussels. The Uefa Executive Committee will make a final decision on this matter on December 7.

In administration matters, the MoU with the EPFL entails that the leagues body will nominate a representative to sit on the Uefa ExCo. This representative will require ratification at the next ordinary Uefa Congress, to be held on February 26.

In June, the EPFL unanimously approved an agreement reached with Uefa in a move that seemingly ended a period of tension between the two bodies. The news came after Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin in April pledged that the governing body would not bow to “blackmail” from stakeholders over its plans for the sport on the continent, amid ongoing talk of a Super League competition and opposition to planned changes to the Champions League and Europa League.

A previous MoU between the EPFL and Uefa formally expired on March 15. This effectively granted all European leagues total freedom to schedule their matches as they see fit – including on the same days and at the same kick-off times as Uefa club competitions.

The reform measures unveiled by Uefa for the Champions League and Europa League will see the continent’s top four leagues granted automatic qualification for four teams each to its elite competition, reducing the slots available for clubs from smaller leagues. The amendments are set to take hold from the 2018-19 season and will work across the 2018-21 cycle of Uefa’s club competitions.

Commenting on the MoU, EPFL chairman Lars-Christer Olsson said: “This is the first day of a new era for professional football in Europe. EPFL and Uefa are committed to work together to improve the governance of our game. As the organisers of club competitions at domestic level we look forward with enthusiasm to sharing our expertise and knowledge with Uefa and other stakeholders to work and solve together the issues and challenges that confront professional football today.”

In other news, following the resignation of Ángel María Villar Llona from Uefa and Fifa functions, Michele Uva has been appointed as a new Uefa vice-president, while Fernando Gomes was appointed as a European member to the Fifa Council until the next Ordinary Uefa Congress.

Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) president Villar resigned from his senior positions at Fifa and Uefa in July following his arrest as part of an anti-corruption investigation in his home country.