FAI lobby Uefa over venue decision


SOCCER:THE FAI was lobbying yesterday to have a decision by Uefa to refuse permission to Andorra to stage their European Championship qualifying game against the Republic of Ireland in Barcelona overturned.

As things stand the game, on October 7th, will be played at the Communal Stadium in Andorra, a venue that holds just 850 spectators.

It is feared that comfortably more than that number of Irish supporters have already booked flights and hotels for the trip in the expectation that the match would be staged at Espanyol’s ground in Barcelona.

The association, indeed, had been confident in recent weeks that that would be the venue and Uefa’s decision this week appears to have come as a complete surprise as Ireland have played the Andorrans in Barcelona on previous occasions.

No substantial reason seems to have been given for the decision but it may be that Ireland’s qualification rivals have expressed concerns about the game being moved given that Slovakia only came away from the smaller venue with a 1-0 win in March.

Whatever the reason, the decision would spark a chaotic scramble for tickets in the event that it is upheld, with the FAI only entitled to around 100 for the game.

Even assuming that travelling supporters mopped up most of the rest it would not come close to satisfying demand, especially if Giovanni Trapattoni’s side does well in the qualifying games against Slovakia and Russia over the next few weeks.

“The decision goes against previous Uefa and Fifa precedents involving Ireland, England and the Netherlands – all of whom have played their matches against Andorra in Barcelona without issue,” said FAI chief executive John Delaney in a statement issued by the association yesterday.

“We are appealing this decision with Uefa. Given previous precedents, and the likely volume of fans wanting to attend, we believe the game should take place in Barcelona particularly as the home association had made the request to Uefa. This is a real blow to our fans many of whom have already made their arrangements to travel.”

There is a sense that the FAI’s cause has not been helped much by the fact that the Andorrans themselves appear to have accepted the ruling by Uefa readily enough.

The hosts had intended to stage the game at the Communal Stadium in the first place but then changed their minds in part when estimates of the number of Irish supporters expected to travel was revised upwards because the team has stayed firmly in contention for qualification from the group.

The trip always looked an attractive one from the point of view of fans with Barcelona an attractive and accessible destination.

A decision on the FAI’s appeal is expected from Uefa over the coming days.