Decision about ÖFB stadium against Sweden probably this week

The decision as to whether the Austrian national soccer team will play their first international match against Sweden in Rapid’s Allianz Stadium on June 20 will probably be made this week. The ÖFB must notify UEFA of the venue for one of the possible key games in the European Championship qualifier by next Tuesday (March 21). Team boss Ralf Rangnick advocates going to a smaller stadium than the extensive Happel oval.

“In this area I’m a very big traditionalist, maybe also a football romantic,” said Rangnick on Tuesday at a journalists’ meeting in Vienna. “I love football stadiums with a real atmosphere, where people are close by, where the exchange between the stands and what’s happening on the pitch is directly tangible. That’s what I wish for.”

Rangnick gave the example of last year’s World Cup play-off, when Wales defeated the ÖFB team under their predecessor Franco Foda 2-1 in the smaller Cardiff stadium with frenetic support from the crowd. “When I look at Wales, it’s a mystery to me why they were at the World Cup and Austria wasn’t,” said the German about the Brits’ performance.

Anyone who would be interested in bringing Austrian football forward would have to use all the “pieces of the puzzle” to do so. “It’s also part of the fact that it doesn’t matter in which stadium we play against this or that opponent,” said Rangnick. “We have to make sure we have a home game atmosphere in every damn home game.” The new Raiffeisen Arena in Linz should be sold out with just over 17,000 visitors against Azerbaijan and Estonia.

The Sweden game will definitely take place in Vienna. “In the course of the week we will finally know whether it is the Happel Stadium or the Allianz Stadium,” said Bernhard Neuhold, Managing Director of ÖFB Wirtschaftsbetriebe GmbH. The new Rapid Stadium, which opened in 2016, would seat 24,000 people, but no international matches have been played there, also due to concerns from the club. The last ones in Vienna-Hütteldorf in 2007 did not go smoothly.

Neuhold now reported “constructive talks” with Rapid, located “no mock battles” from the record champions. The Football Association does not want to get involved in experiments either. “We are extremely interested in working on a solution with Rapid by the weekend. But we need a broad commitment.”

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His possible solution to the problem that Rapid does not like to see their own fan block in other hands: sell the tickets directly to the club. “Only Rapid would take care of who is allowed to sit there,” explained Neuhold. “But we would demand that this Block West also be full.” Especially since the ÖFB would play primarily because of the better atmosphere in Hütteldorf.

From an economic point of view, the larger Happel Stadium would only be the more profitable alternative for 35,000 or 40,000 visitors. “Because Rapid has much larger hospitality areas available,” explained Neuhold. But money isn’t everything anyway, emphasized Rangnick. “Wales would have sold and earned more tickets at the Millennium Stadium back then.” It might not have been enough to qualify for the World Cup there.

As a team boss, it doesn’t really matter to him whether the game is played in Salzburg, Linz or Vienna, said Rangnick. “But of course I would also like a really great, great stadium in the capital. There aren’t that many there.” In contrast to the Happel-Oval, he counts the Allianz Stadium among them. Rangnick on the discussion about its (non-)availability: “Actually, Austria should ask itself the question: is everything like that because it’s always been like that? Does it always have to stay like that?” The next few days will tell.

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