UEFA president Michel Platini has insisted fans will benefit from Euro 2020 being played in 13 cities across the continent – and gave a boost to Scottish hopes of hosting some matches at the tournament.
Platini said Uefa had held talks with fans’ group Football Supporters Europe and convinced them the format of holding games in 13 cities across Europe would benefit the majority of supporters. He admitted the plan sounded “zany” but that it would also serve to deliver a low-cost tournament to a continent struggling with the economic crisis.
The Football Association will bid for Wembley to host the final while Wales and Scotland will also bid for Euro 2020 games, with the Scottish Football Association also keen to bring the final to Glasgow.
Platini told reporters at a briefing in Nyon: “We have talked to the fans. They were against it originally but we told them we are going to help them and suddenly they had a much more positive attitude. Certainly it will be easier for the English to go to Wales and Scotland to watch a match instead of having to travel the world. We have some decisions to make now – some political, some geographical. For example, we cannot have an English fan going to Lisbon, Kazakhstan and Sweden. We will have an intelligent solution – not chasing the fans all over Europe.
“The Euros are coming to the fans and taking matches to quite a number of countries. We have met with supporters’ associations recently and have reassured them we will do whatever is possible to make sure fans get the necessary support when they travel.”
Platini himself came up with the idea of staging the tournament but he said it had been supported by every European country apart from Turkey, who had hoped to host the Euros on their own. He added: “I just bring forward ideas and then national associations have their own meetings and workshops and 52 out of 53 said ‘yes’. I don’t decide, the national associations have decided. Poland and Ukraine was a great Euro but it was very expensive, almost as expensive as the Olympic Games. It is perhaps a bit of a zany idea but it is a good idea.
“It won’t be like Poland and Ukraine, with 50 French supporters here and 70 Spanish supporters there. It was difficult to go to Poland and Ukraine and I would like to congratulate the British supporters who went there but perhaps they now have the possibility to go to another country that’s closer.”
Platini added that he wanted the finals and semi-finals to be in one city – and the FA will put London forward as a candidate. He said: “I’m in favour of the final phase being in one city to give it more importance, that’s my idea. The executive committee will decide whether it’s a good or bad idea. I think this would create a very special atmosphere among the supporters and it will be a week of national teams and it could be a great party.”
Platini said Fifa president Sepp Blatter had congratulated him on the Euro 2020 idea, but the plan got a mixed response from managers yesterday.
Arsene Wenger called it “creative”, Harry Redknapp found it “interesting” and Paul Lambert and Sam Allardyce questioned the need for change.
Wenger saw pros and cons in the idea but did not dismiss it out of hand while Lambert and Allardyce felt the existing format, with one or two host countries, should be maintained.
Wenger said: “I’m not against the idea. I haven’t studied it well enough to give a verdict on it. It has advantages [and] it has disadvantages. The advantage is that the whole [of] Europe would be concerned by the championship. The disadvantage is sometimes when the country organises the European championship, it’s a good opportunity for them to build structures [that] are very useful on new stadiums, new training pitches [and] new communication facilities.
“It’s always a good opportunity to make up-to-date structures for football. [In] the long-term, that’s important. I find the idea creative. They said the final will possibly be at Wembley, so we will not complain.”
Villa manager Lambert was less welcoming of Michel Platini’s plan. He said: “It is quite a bit away isn’t it but I’m probably not an advocate of it and prefer the format the way it was, set in one country. It is expensive as well and isn’t going to get any cheaper for fans if they are going to get around different countries.”
Allardyce wondered why Uefa felt the need to adopt a new format in 2020. “Multiple cities would be an interesting scenario,” he said. “I don’t quite know why they want to change it to multiple cities because I don’t think there has been anything wrong with the European Championships I have been watching over the past 20 to 30 years.”