Euro 2012: Michel Platini plans to turn Euros into a travelling circus
UEFA president Michel Platini has dropped a bombshell by claiming Euro 2020 could be held in up to 32 cities across Europe.
Turkey had been favourites to host the event but doubt has been placed on their ability to stage the tournament due to their ongoing bid for Istanbul to host the Olympic Games in the same year. It would be impractical to host both, so UEFA is having to look at alternatives.
Platini insists there are other options – a joint bid between Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland has been mentioned – but the controversial Frenchman has raised the potential for a far more radical solution.
“The Euros in 2020 could be held all over Europe,” said Platini. “We are just thinking about it. I have said 12 or 13 host cities, it could be 24 or 32.”
The reasoning behind what seems, on the face of it, to be a rather bizarre plan, is to save the cost involved of building stadiums and airports.
However, unless the “tournament” was going to be played in cities already used to holding big matches, that expense would still be required. The details are very sketchy.
However, speaking in Kiev yesterday, Platini seemed enthused by the prospect.
“It is a great debate,” he said. “It would be four games per venue and everyone has the possibility to host it.”
The logistical issue of supporters travelling to random venues all over Europe did not seem to be a problem in Platini’s mind, even if the example he used had very little to do with the present tournament, being co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine.
“It is easier to go from London to Paris or Berlin than Cardiff to Gdansk,” he said. “Turkey going for the Olympics creates a problem for us and we are not going to wait until we know whether they are going to get them.”
Quite how much support Platini’s plan would have is difficult to gauge at this stage. However, he vowed a final decision would be taken in “January or February”.
“The political decision needs to be made,” he said. “We wouldn’t have to build stadiums or airports. That could be important in an economic crisis. This matter will be discussed very seriously.”
By 2020, the Euros will be a 24-team competition. The expansion takes effect in France four years from now and seems to bloat a competition that has worked perfectly well over the past three weeks. However, it would increase the chances of Scotland qualifying for their first major tournament since 1998, a point acknowledged by Platini.
“I didn’t take the decision but I am not worried about it,” said Platini. “We had three World Cups with 24 teams, so I don’t see that as a problem. If you consider Norway, Serbia, Belgium and Scotland, plus some others, we have enough good teams for a 24-team competition.”
Platini admitted it still had to be worked out for Euro 2016 in France how the group system would work, although he did recall that in four 24-team World Cups, FIFA operated with six groups of four.
“I like the 24-team format, because we have the round of 16,” he said. “Then we have eight games with knockout competition and that’s exciting.
“With 24 teams you get more games in a stadium. It is very expensive with just three.”
Platini also insisted Euro 2012 was a sell-out. Although largely well-attended, there have been a large number of empty seats at certain games.
Spaces were notable at England’s opening match with France, France’s quarter-final against Spain and Wednesday’s semi-final between Portugal and Spain, all of which took place in Donetsk.
Huge costs of travel and accommodation have been blamed for the relatively small number of fans who went to Poland and Ukraine.
Yet Platini insists it had more to do with seats allocated to corporate partners not being used rather than tickets not being purchased.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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