KEIR RADNEDGE in PRAGUE: The Champions League Final is heading back to Britain for the third time in six years after the selection by UEFA of Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium to host Europe’s most prestigious club event in 2017.
The Football Association of Wales has never hosted the Champions League Final before but the European federation was impressed by the manner in which it undertook the Supercup between Real Madrid and Sevilla in Cardiff City’s neighbouring home last year.
UEFA overlooked the Millennium Stadium (capacity 74,154) for the Euro 2020 finals but will now be bringing European competition to Cardiff twice in a matter of days: Cardiff City Stadium will host the 2017 UEFA Women’s Champions League Final on Thursday, June 1, with the men’s version two later.
Wembley staged the Champions League showdown in both 2011 and 2013 so 2017 will be the first time it has been awarded to another of the home nations since Hampden Park, Glasgow, witnessed Real Madrid defeating Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 in 2002.
Explaining the rationale, UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino said: “The Millennium Stadium is one of the few stadiums which can host a Champions League Final because it has become such a big event and we can not go every year to a Wembley or Berlin.
“We need to rotate so it’s only appropriate that a city like Cardiff and a historic association such as the FA of Wales can host the most prestigious club event. The Millennium Stadium has shown it can host big events and we have been in good contact with the FA of Wales since a long time. It’s well deserved.”
Reaction from Welsh football was unanimous delight.
FAW president Trefor Lloyd Hughes said: “Welsh football is certainly on the up and we look forward to working closely with UEFA and all of our stakeholders over the next two years to deliver two memorable finals.”
Chief executive Jonathan Ford added: “We believe staging both finals will have a positive and long-lasting effect on Welsh football. This is the culmination of two years’ of hard work.”
Real Madrid’s Wales star Gareth Bale now has an extra incentive to be playing in the final in 2017. He said: “These are exciting times for Welsh football.
“It feels like the whole country is behind us as we attempt to reach next year’s Euro 2016 finals in France. I know how passionate the Welsh football fans are so it’s great the UEFA Champions League Final is coming to my home city.
“I loved playing in the UEFA Supercup last year and it would be fantastic to be involved in 2017.”
The 2017 Europa League Final will be played in Stockholm with the Supercup in Skopje (Macedonia).
After UEFA stages its 2016 congress in Budapest subsequent years have been awarded to Helsinki (2017, to mark 110th anniversary of the Finnish FA) and Bratislava (2018, to mark the 80th anniversary of the Slovak FA).
** Norway’s Karen Espelund has been returned as female representative on UEFA executive comittee for a further four-year term.
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