THERE will be NO return to Seville this season for Celtic fans after Real Betis were forced to perform a remarkable u-turn.
The Hoops supporters were preparing for a trip to the Spanish city where Martin O’Neill’s side came so close to European glory against Jose Mourinho’s Porto in 2003.
However, the opening Europa League group encounter on Thursday at the 60,000-capacity Estadio Benito Villamarin will be played exclusively in front of Betis’ followers.
Tickets for the away end went on sale last night, but a dramatic statement issued on the Celtic website today has informed supporters they will NOT be allowed into the ground following a decision made by the local Andalusian authorities.
The statement read: “We regret to announce that we have in the last 30 minutes been informed by Real Betis that they are no longer allowed to accept away fans for the match against Celtic next week, Thursday 16th September.
“Betis have indicated to Celtic that the local authority in Spain has now stated that visiting fans will not be permitted to attend the match.
“Responsibility for advising away clubs on ticketing and acceptance of fans travelling lies with the home club in UEFA competitions. Since the draw was made we have asked Betis to confirm whether they will be accepting Celtic fans at this fixture.
“Early on Wednesday afternoon Betis confirmed that they would be accepting Celtic fans for this match and the club has been working hard to try and find a way to comply with the requirements laid down to admit Celtic fans for this fixture.
“It is therefore extremely disappointing to be told moments ago that Betis will no longer be able to admit Celtic fans to this match.
“Whilst this matter is totally outwith Celtic’s control we fully understand the disappointment which will be felt by Celtic fans planning on attending. Wherever we play we are backed by the best support in huge numbers and it is a disappointment to all involved at Celtic and the team that we will not be able to have our fans with us as we visit the city of Seville again.
“Clearly, any match tickets purchased online, which went on sale last night, will be refunded.”
Club chiefs are now working with the other two sides in the group – Bundesliga giants Bayer Leverkusen and Hungarians Ferencvaros – to ensure the disappointment is not repeated.