Athletic Club Issues Formal Statement Denouncing UEFA’s Ruling On How To Allocate European Qualification

Elizegi Real Sociead

Aitor Elizegi with Real Sociedad president Jokin Aperribay (AC)

Athletic have been backed into a corner. UEFA’s ruling that the last European spot, reserved for the Copa Del Rey champion, will go to the club that finishes 7th in the La Liga table if the season isn’t completed has frustrated the Basques who are now in a difficult position.

It was originally decided by the Spanish Football Federation that Athletic would earn a place in Europe as Cup finalists if the rest of the season were to be canceled. UEFA’s ruling has overruled that plan and, even more concerning, the governing body has asked that the Cup final be played this season if at all possible.

Having the final this season would require the game to be played behind closed doors, something Athletic have vehemently argued against. The club’s stance has always been to postpone the match until fans can safely attend. While that can still happen, doing so would require Athletic to finish in the top 7 to qualify for Europe.

The RFEF will leave the decision up to Athletic and Real Sociedad who must now choose between playing without fans with Europe on the line, or postponing until fans can attend with Europe taken away. Fans have since shown tremendous support for postponing the final with Peñas even issuing statements appealing to the club.

Many have argued that playing the final without fans would defy the values of the club. Some have gone as far to say that they would take an open final over European football. Less than 24 hours after UEFA’s ruling, Athletic have issued a formal statement denouncing the decision.

Team Lineup

The status of the Copa del Rey final is still in the air (AC)

Athletic argue that, in the event of the remainder of the season being canceled, giving the last European spot to 7th place when there are eleven games left to play wouldn’t be appropriate. The club points out that being Cup finalists means they are only one victory away from earning qualification outright.

Although Athletic stated that the club will work to defend what they believe to be fair, there was no mention of the possibility of still choosing to postpone the final until next season. It’s very likely that the club have yet to make a decision and will attempt to get the ruling overturned, but fans were upset to not see Athletic take a clear and firm stance on the importance of playing the Cup final with fans. According to a report from Juanma Velasco of Marca, even the players were frustrated by the club’s timid response.

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) yesterday informed the European football federations that if the pending domestic competitions cannot be completed, the sporting merits of the clubs in the professional leagues will be given priority over those clubs who are finalists in the different national cups when determining the access list to the next edition of the Europa League.

This supposes that the highest continental football organization discards the option proposed by the RFEF that, in the event that the competitions are not finished and that one of the two Cup finalists already had a European ticket for the league competition, the other Cup finalist would participate in the 2020-2021 Europa League.

Athletic Club strongly disagrees with a decision that places greater value on the merits of the seventh-ranked team in a professional league that still has 11 of its 38 games to be played over the merits of the finalists of a competition in which 125 teams from all levels of our football are involved and all that remains is playing the last game, the final. We also understand that, in case of early termination of competitions, the criterion of assigning a place for the 2020-2021 Europa League to the Cup finalist who does not enter through the league competition should be applied.

Athletic Club does not share or understand why a competition with as much prestige as the Cup is being deprived of the possibility of assigning a European place when it has always been the case. With this decision, a finalist and a potential Cup champions are excluded from the possibility of entering the group stage of the Europa League.

We have always defended our rights with the utmost rigor and honesty and, in this sense, we will continue to work in defense of the criteria that we understand to be fair.

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