UEFA has expressed disappointment on hearing that the new Hardturm Stadium in Zurich will not be ready for the 2008 UEFA European Championship finals, to be jointly hosted by Austria and Switzerland.

Leagl disputes involving local residents and environmental groups against planning permission mean the stadium will not be ready by the summer of 2007, when the necessary pre-tournament testing would be carried out.

It means that the final round of European football’s foremost national-team tournament in four years’ time may only be staged in seven stadiums instead of eight as planned.

“UEFA remains fully confident that the EURO 2008 Local Organising Committee will find a suitable solution for the loss of the Zurich project,” a statement by European football’s governing body said on Wednesday.

“Various options have already been looked into in order to re-allocate the matches that would have been played at the Hardturm Stadium to the other Swiss stadiums should it be necessary,” UEFA added. “For a new venue to be considered, it would have to be fully operational by the summer of 2007. This would allow enough time to test all facilities during a regular football season.”

“We have taken note that the new Hardturm Stadium in Zurich will not be ready on time,” said UEFA Chief Executive Lars-Christer Olsson on Wednesday, “but we remain fully confident the Local Organising Committee will run a successful tournament even though seven stadiums may be used instead of the eight initially planned.

“We are disappointed that the wish to have a new Hardturm Stadium built to be used for UEFA EURO 2008™, as expressed in the poll by the citizens of Zurich, was destroyed by a small minority.”