KEIR RADNEDGE in Kyiv
— Naked girls at the stadium, metro escalators which break the speed limits: next year’s European Championship finals in Ukraine and Poland promise to be memorably different.
Not that the girls will be allowed to gate-crash the party next June. But they were allowed their five minutes in the media spotlight before the police moved in to bring their anti-prostitution demo to a halt. Instead the cameras next June will all be directed towards the action on the pitch.
UEFA’s main event sits at No3 in the world sports event rankings behind the World Soccer and Olympic Games. This is one reason why, in 2016, it will expand from 16 teams to 24 when France plays host in a more traditional style.
This time around, however, presents the third and most challenging co-hosting experience in UEFA history. Holland and Belgium was the conjoined stage in 2000 then Austria and Switzerland in 2008. But heading into the lands beyond the old frontier of the Iron Curtain has been a severe test of nerve for the European federation and its partners.
Poland has always been up with the preparation game despite an unhappy background with corruption claims and counter-claims in the domestic game.
Ukraine’s ability to push through the essential minimum work has remained questionable, however. The coincidence of the current appeal by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko against a jail term for abuse of office serves as a reminder of the fragility of Ukraine’s post-Soviet democracy.
There will, however, be no need to seek emergency staging assistance for Germany or Hungary, as had been feared. The Opening Match will be in the Polish capital of Warsaw on June 8 and the final in the rebuilt Olympic Stadium in Kyiv on July 1.
The ‘Olympic’ label is permissible because the stadium site hosted matches in the football tournament of the 1980 Moscow Games when Ukraine was within the Soviet Union (just as the Wroclaw training venue in Poland is also an Olympic Stadium because hosted football matches within the 1936 Games when a far-eastern corner of Germany).
Turning up the heat
The Kyiv stadium has a working capacity of 68,055 which will be reduced to 60,000 for the finals because of the space demands for media, sponsors and signage. A section of the roof briefly caught fire during the opening ceremony featuring pop singer Shakira but all went peacefully during the re-opening game last month which saw a 3-3 draw between Ukraine and Germany.
Total prize money available will be E196m, up from E184m in 2008 with a ‘pot’ of E23.5m for the winners.
Each of the 16 participating teams will be guaranteed a minimum E8m plus performance bonuses in the group stage of E1m for a win and E500,000 for a draw. A further E1m bonus will go to the team finishing third in each of the four initial mini-leagues.
In the knockout stage each quarter-finalist will earn E2m and each semi-finalist E3m. The runner-up in the final will add in a further E4.5m and the champions E7.5m.
Around 1.4m fans will watch next year’s 31 matches live in the eight stadia (Donetsk, Kiev, Lviv and Kharkiv in Ukraine; Gdansk, Poznan, Warsaw and Wroclaw in Poland). They will pay between E30 and E600 for their tickets with the cheapest having been cut 50pc in price by UEFA by comparison with Austria/Switzerland as a cost-of-living concession.
An average of 150m viewers expected to watch each match on live television in more than 200 territories around the world.
The tournament itself is expected to generate around E1.3bn through four the usual main revenue streams of media rights (62pc), commercial rights from sponsorship, licensing and merchandising (22pc), ticketing (nine per cent) and hospitality (seven per cent).
Various host tourism initiatives are being planned with the Poles apparently further ahead in the planning and announcements race (www.polishguide2012.pl).