Zurich’s chances of hosting any of the 2008 European Championship matches have been dashed after officials said opposition to a new stadium meant it would not be finished in time.
Zurich’s slim hope lies in a major SFr125 million ($98.5 million) revamp of the old Letzigrund stadium, but organisers remain sceptical.
The project’s main investor, Credit Suisse, announced on Wednesday that it would go to the Federal Court to resolve a legal battle with local residents opposed to the stadium.
But the bank said that whatever the outcome, the Hardturm stadium would not be ready for the football championships, which are to be jointly hosted by Switzerland and Austria.
Zurich had hoped to stage three matches in the new stadium.
Organisers said they would redistribute matches among stadiums in Bern, Basel and Geneva, eliminating Zurich as a venue.
But European football’s governing body, Uefa, left the door open for Zurich to return to the competition.
“If in the next year, the Letzigrund or some other stadium is presented as an option, and it meets our specifications, we would reconsider,” Uefa head of communications William Gaillard told swissinfo.
“But that is the longest we can wait. By then we need to start making detailed plans."
Gaillard said the decision was made in consultation with Swiss and Austrian organising committees.
"We’re disappointed the new stadium will not be ready. But we know we can use the three stadiums [Bern, Basel and Geneva], so it is not a big problem.”
The Swiss Football Association believes it is unlikely Letzigrund could be completed in time.
“In view of the timelines presented, this alternative seems unrealistic,” it said in a statement.
The championships require a 30,000-seat stadium, which Letzigrund is not.
“Currently there is no suitable alternative to the Zurich stadium,” the association said.
Zurich mayor Elmar Ledergerber said taking the complaint to the Federal Court was a step in the right direction.
“We need to clarify the need for parking spaces and access roads. Otherwise we cannot build in Zurich."
Ledergerber told swissinfo he believed Letzigrund was still a possibility if the Hardturm development could not go ahead.
"We don’t want anyone to say we didn’t do everything we could to bring the matches to Zurich. The Letzigrund is the last chance for Zurich.”
The Zurich stadium is one of four venues in Switzerland scheduled to stage Euro 2008 matches.
Stadiums in Basel and Geneva are already in use, while building work in Bern is due to be completed next year.
If completed, the Zurich stadium will hold up to 30,000 seated spectators and be home to two football clubs: Grasshoppers and FC Zurich.
The main investor in the new stadium complex in Zurich, Credit Suisse, wants to take its legal battle with locals to the Swiss Federal Court in Lausanne.
The dispute is centred on parking in the area.
Further delays in starting construction work mean that the stadium will not be ready to host the three planned European football championship matches in 2008.