Sat, Dec 08, 2012 - Page 18 News List

UEFA gives green light to continent-wide Euro 2020

AFP, LAUSANNE, Switzerland

UEFA president Michel Platini of France looks on during this year’s last meeting of the executive committee of European soccer’s governing body in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Thursday.

Photo: AFP

UEFA’s executive committee has given the green light to holding the European championships in 2020 across the continent, the ruling body’s secretary-general Gianni Infantino said on Thursday.

Former French captain Michel Platini, who is president of UEFA, first mooted the idea of holding the tournament in a number of cities earlier this year, as a way of avoiding high costs at a time of dire financial constraints in many countries.

“UEFA Euro 2020 will be staged across the continent, in various major cities, following a decision taken today,” said Infantino, calling the tournament in eight years’ time “A Euro for Europe.”

The response has been extremely positive from all the national associations, he added, apart from Turkey, but there was widespread disbelief among many fans on Twitter, in particular over the potential cost of traveling to watch games in a number of countries.

“Meanwhile, the chief execs of [low cost airlines] Ryanair and Easyjet are jumping for joy,” one user said.

Others said that the idea of not having a single host nation would ruin the atmosphere of the tournament, which is soccer’s second biggest after the World Cup, but considered among purists to be of a higher overall standard.

A decision to award Qatar the World Cup in 2022 has already caused disquiet among fans, especially with the tournament being held in the searing heat of a Gulf summer.

Infantino said he was not in a position to say how many countries and cities would be involved, but if the project was ready next month, it would be rubber-stamped then or at an executive committee meeting on March 23.

Cities were likely to be chosen in early 2014 — six years before the start of the tournament, he added.

Turkey, which has put itself forward as a candidate for 2020 alongside Azerbaijan and Georgia, as well as a three-way bid from the Republic of Ireland, Wales and Scotland, was the only country opposed to the project.

Istanbul is also a candidate to host the Olympic Games in the same year, although the International Olympic Committee has said that having one country host two major events so close to each other is against its rules.

FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke, speaking in a personal capacity, said last week that he failed to grasp the concept of a continent-wide tournament, saying it would destroy the competition.

Platini said before the eve of this year’s Euros that the 60th anniversary of the competition, which is held every four years, could involve “12 or 13 cities across Europe” and that most of the 53 UEFA federations were in favor.

Central to his argument was that it would make organization easier, after serious concerns about cost overruns and infrastructure delays in this year’s hosts Poland and particularly Ukraine.

This year’s competition was the first time that the championships had been held behind the former Iron Curtain and the decision for the 2020 tournament also breaks new ground.

Euro 2016 is scheduled to take place in 10 cities across France, but there are already concerns about the progress of new or refurbished grounds, particularly in northern Lens and eastern Lyon.

The draw for the qualifying campaign for Euro 2016 takes place in the Mediterranean city of Nice on March 9, 2014.

The qualifying phase for the tournament, which will be expanded from 16 teams to 24, runs from September 2014 to November 2015.

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