Uefa dashes cup hopes of Welsh 'exiles'

Swansea and Cardiff blocked from using Welsh Cup as a route into European competition

Uefa is likely to consider joint bids for the 2020 European Championship, the organisation's general secretary, Gianni Infantino, said yesterday.

The tournament switches to 24 finalists in 2016, which will be hosted by France, so only a handful of single candidates could realistically hold the championship.

"Uefa has a history of joint bids, so this is certainly possible," said Infantino following a two-day meeting of the European governing body's executive committee. "We have to bear in mind there will be 24 teams, which means at least nine stadia."

There was bad news for Wales, though, after the Uefa committee yesterday rejected an attempt to allow Welsh "exile" clubs such as Swansea and Cardiff the chance to qualify for Europe via the Welsh Cup. Wales also lost out to the Czech Republic in their bid to host the 2015 European Under-21 Championships.

The expanded 2020 European Championship would hardly be the first to be jointly hosted: that arrived in 2000 when Belgium and the Netherlands shared the finals, followed by Austria and Switzerland in 2008. This year's finals are being jointly hosted by Poland and Ukraine.

Next week all 53 member nations of Uefa will be invited to bid to stage the 2020 tournament, and will have until mid-May to declare an interest. Voting will take place in late 2013 or early 2014.

Turkey, who missed out by one vote for the 2016 tournament, may again consider running but their chances will depend on how quickly they sort out the match-fixing problems that have overshadowed their domestic football season.

"Turkey had and has, unfortunately, some issues. It is now up to the Turkish FA bodies to take the appropriate decisions," said Infantino.

"It is their responsibility. They know what they have to do. We will look into this matter if they don't take any decisions. We have zero tolerance on match-fixing and it is important they take the right decisions."

An Istanbul court is trying 93 defendants, including the chairman of the champions Fenerbahçe, Aziz Yildirim, on charges of rigging matches.

Meanwhile, Gibraltar's long-standing dream of joining Uefa and taking part in European competition came closer to reality yesterday when the governing body's executive committee agreed financial and educational support.

The tiny British colony at the tip of Spain, with a population of 28,000, has applied to become Uefa's 54th member before next year's congress in London when the other members will vote on its future.

Gibraltar last sought Uefa membership in 2007 but out of the then 52 member associations only the English, Scottish and Welsh FAs voted in favour, while Spain threatened to boycott and withdraw from any competition to which Gibraltar were admitted.

Since then Gibraltar has competed against other outcast countries and is a member of the Federation of International Football Independents, Fifi, an alternative to Fifa. The first Fifi World Cup was contested in 2006 in Hamburg with five nations taking part: Gibraltar, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (the eventual winner), Zanzibar, Greenland and Tibet.

Gibraltar's case has been strengthened by the Court of Arbitration for Sport's ruling that Uefa has to consider it for membership. Spain still claims sovereignty over Gibraltar, which was ceded to Britain by the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht. An edict from the Consejo Superior de Deportes to all sports federations in Spain orders that they should block any membership application from organisations in Gibraltar.

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