Barca and Athletic request Bernabeu showdown

The Copa del Rey showdown has been at the centre of a venue dispute ever since the finalists were determined, with Real Madrid refusing to stage the game

The row over the venue for the 2015 Copa del Rey final shows no sign of abating after Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao formally requested the use of the Santiago Bernabeu.

The pair have made the home of Real Madrid their preferred choice for the May 30 clash but the European champions are not keen on hosting the showpiece event.

The matter will now be left in the hands of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), who must try to broker a deal with Madrid or seek an alternative at short notice.

“The Spanish Federation had received requests from some cities to host the Cup, but not from Madrid,” said Albert Soler, Barca’s director of sporting institutional relations. 

“Since both clubs wish to play the final at the Bernabeu, we made a formal request to Real Madrid and, therefore, will be waiting for an official response.

“So far we have not considered any other option than the Bernabeu, as we await an answer from the federation.”

Madrid are keen to avoid scenes similar to 1997, when Barca beat Betis to win the Copa at the Bernabeu and president Joan Gaspart ran on to the pitch amid wild celebrations while the Catalans’ club anthem was played over the loudspeaker system.

Furthermore, both Barca and Athletic are from regions – Catalunya and the Basque Country – in which many are keen to seal independence from Spain. In 2009, when Barca met Athletic, Spanish broadcaster TVE censured the national anthem as it was greeted with a chorus of boos and whistles from fans of the two clubs, while supporters acted similarly in the 2012 showpiece.

Such a scenario is already seen as an embarrassment in a competition that bears the name of the country’s monarch and Madrid want to avoid controversy in what will be King Felipe’s first final as the country’s ruler.

One possible get-out for the capital club is that Real Madrid Castilla could be in action in the play-offs for promotion to Spain’s Segunda Division and it is tradition for the B team to use the Bernabeu in those matches.

Zinedine Zidane’s side are currently seventh in Group II – albeit just three points off top spot – and will need to finish among the first four of that sector to reach the play-offs. If they do qualify, Castilla must wait until May 18 to find out if they will play at home on the weekend of the final (due to take place on May 30).

By then, however, it would be too late logistically to change the venue of the Copa decider.

20

03 2015
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