Problems for Euro 2020


Forever in football the view on the horizon has as much attention paid to it as the event currently occurring; “sure Manchester City won the Premier League this season, but what are they doing to consolidate their position at the top of the tree?”  commentators ask.

It’s one of the ways to maintain the crucial interest of the masses in the sport, by keeping the narrative going and thus keeping the revenue flowing to clubs, the media, governing bodies and all the key players in the industry.

Thus, we have the situation whereby UEFA’s biggest party of them all, Euro 2012, is fast approaching but the planning for the finals of the competition in 2020 has already had its first deadline come and go.

Midnight this morning was the point at which expressions of interest to host the competition had to be submitted to UEFA and so it came to pass that UEFA has three bids on their metaphorical table (or huge literal table) to ponder over these bids being from Turkey, a ‘Celtic’ option consisting of Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland and Georgia, the latter two bids submitted right on the deadline.

So, there are three options for the right to host the 16th European Championships for UEFA to explore, scrutinise and eventually make a decision on in late 2013 or early 2014. All good news then?

Well, no.

Each bid has a huge, gaping problem with it that makes the worries over the state of the stadiums in Poland and Ukraine for this year’s tournament seem rather small-fry by comparison.

On paper, the Turkish bid is the strongest as it has the infrastructure (in terms of stadiums already built), a passionate fan base for the sport and it also missed out on hosting Euro 2016 to France by a single vote which shows its capabilities to host a tournament of this magnitude are acknowledged and respected in UEFA HQ .

However, two rather large problems severely cripple the Turkish bid. Firstly, there is the ongoing situation regarding corruption in their FA and match-fixing in Turkish football, a situation so severe that UEFA supremo Michel Platini has waded into the situation threatening to ban the country from European competition.

Secondly, Istanbul has also submitted a bid to host the 2020 Olympics. The rules of the International Olympic Committee prevent a country hosting a major sporting tournament in the same year as an Olympics if a city in that country is hosting the Games. The Turkish government is thought to favour the Olympics should a choice have to be made due to the subsequent commercial boost and reasons of realpolitik. The announcement of the Olympics host city is expected in September 2013 with UEFA’s decision following three or four months later.

The ‘Celtic’ bid is a strong one with the countries having a large number of appropriately-sized stadiums built and in use already, not too much geographical distance between the host countries for visiting teams and fans and a strong infrastructure of airports, railway stations and hotels in cities such as Cardiff, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dublin for example. However, a three-country bid is particularly unprecedented (and a successful one completely unprecedented) and would cause difficulty when it comes to automatic qualification for host countries.

Lastly, the Georgia bid is the most underwhelming of the lot. UEFA criteria dictates that host nations must have two stadiums of 50,000+ capacity, three of 40,000+ and four of 30,000+. Georgia currently has one stadium with more than 30,000+ (Dinamo Tbilisi’s 57,000-seater) with a 30,000 seater expected to be completed by 30,000. Even in a country dealing moderately well with global economic downturn (more on which later), the ability to construct at least eight new stadiums must be doubted and, after the problems in Ukraine over stadium construction, UEFA may be unwilling to commit to East Europe again, despite its desire to branch the game out.

Clearly, UEFA are in possession of three bids that have as many problems as they do advantages. For some context, Euro 2016 had four bids at this stage, Euro 2012 had five initial bids submitted and Euro 2008 had six. Some of these bids had equally acute flaws as the current crop but that’s not the point; variety produces strength.

The problem, as this article by Keir Radnedge of World Soccer magazine eloquently explains, is very much of UEFA’s own making. To get more finals matches (and therefore more income), UEFA upped the numbers of teams in the finals from 16 to 24 as of Euro 2016 which subsequently requires more host cities and stadia to be provided.

All well and good when global and national economies are booming and states can afford the expenditure but that is far from the case in the current climate. Indeed, doubts have already been expressed over France’s ability juggle an adequate amount of host cities which, combined with the absurdly early deadline for interest in hosting to be announced by UEFA, has produced three severely flawed candidates. The large list of countries who ultimately decided not to bid really does tell its own story.

Clearly, it is still very early in the process which would allow UEFA to re-open the bid submission procedure and hope for an economic upturn to rustle up some more interest and a concrete bid or two but, not for the first time, European football’s governing body has shot itself in the foot.

Dan Whiteway

There is more news minute by minute on the Euro 2012 news site


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