KEIR RADNEDGE in KYIV
– Michel Platini is considering scrapping the centrally-staged European Championship finals and spreading the matches in more than a dozen cities all over Europe instead. The French president of UEFA revealed the idea publicly during a break in today’s meeting of the European federation’s executive committee.
UEFA has created its own Frankenkstein monster by increasing the size of finals from 16 teams to 24 for France in 2016. Now it has understood that, particularly in the present economic climate, the demands on any would-be host are becoming intimidating.
This came home sharply to UEFA earlier this year when it had to cajole bids to host 2020 from its membership and has come up so far with expressions of interest ‘only’ from Turkey, from Azerbaijan and Georgia jointly and from Ireland, Scotland and Wales together.
Significantly, none of Europe’s major football nations – with the infrastructure all in place – such as England, Germany, Italy or Spain showed any interest whatsoever.
Platini, like a conjuror pulling a rabbit out of a hat, has now come up with his revolutionary idea of dismantling the centrally-hosted finals and spreading the matches around.
This would destroy the ‘event aura’ but could bring matches within the reach of far more fans and puncture the bubble of extortionate over-charging by hotels and airlines which is a negative feature of all centrally-hosted sports events.
Platini said: “This is an idea I came up with a while ago and the executive committee gave me permission to ask the national federations to think about : Not to have a European Championship in one country but to have the matches all over Europe in 2020. This is just an idea at this stage.
“We should work on the idea and we will have a meeting with all the federations in December or January and make a decision. We could have one country with 12 different host cities or have it in 12 or 13 cities all over Europe. I really feel passionately about this. The majority of the executive committee think it’s a good idea and believe we should have a good think about it.
“For example, it would be easier from the standpoint of expenditure by one or two counties on infrastructure like airports and 10 stadia. It’s easier if you have one stadium per host city. That’s all we can say because the idea only came to my mind a while ago. We’ve not decided anything yet but it’s very important.”
Asked about the cost implication for fans, he said: “There are low-cost airlines so sometime it costs less to fly from London to Donetsk.”
Platini’s suggestion revealed UEFA’s dissatisfaction at the nature of the expressions of interest in 2020 but appeared to fly in the face of what he had listed as the powerful legacy Euro 2012 would be leaving to the nations and peoples of Poland and Ukraine.
The 2012 finals had been awarded to the first former Cold War neighbours in the spring of 2007 ahead of bids from Italy and Croatia/Hungary.
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