Football leaders from across Europe have told Uefa they want the 2020 European Championship to be organised in up to 13 host countries and Scotland remain waiting in the wings ready to make a pitch to be one of them.
Uefa’s executive committee meets today and could agree in principle to support President Michel Platini’s multi-nation hosting plan, which he floated during this year’s European Championship.
Stewart Regan, the chief executive of the Scottish Football Association, went on the record last week to support the idea in principle and to indicate that it may appeal to Scotland as a potential host nation.
Regan said at the time: “The 2020 finals will be the 60th anniversary and they’re considering something different.
“Irrespective of the outcome, there is a great opportunity for Scotland, either as the country as a whole or Glasgow putting its hat in the ring to be one of the host cities. Either option gives an opportunity for both Scotland and Glasgow. Which would we prefer? Well, we don’t fully know the model for the 13-city proposal. Until we have all the facts, it’s hard to answer.”
Regan and the SFA are not in alone in finding Platini’s proposal attractive.
Germany football association president Wolfgang Niersbach said last night that the idea has been widely supported during recent consultation meetings with Uefa’s 53 member countries. “This is the general trend around these meetings,” Niersbach said at Uefa headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland. “That Uefa should do it as an exception on the occasion of celebrating the 60th birthday of the European Championship.”
Platini also said in June that he wanted to ease the financial and logistical demands on one or two host countries of the expected 24-nation, 51-match tournament – given difficult time for European economies.
The Uefa leader’s proposal has even won support from Georgia, which was one of the few likely candidates – in a joint bid with Azerbaijan – if Uefa held a traditional hosting contest for Euro 2020.
“I think it’s an interesting idea for Georgia,” its football president Domenti Sichinava said. “We had a few meetings around Europe and many countries are supporting this idea.”
With the tournament divided into six groups of four teams, one idea for hosting a multi-national event would be for each group to stage its matches in two cities. Ideally, those two cities would be relatively close to each other, so as to limit travel demands on teams and fans alike.
With 12 knockout matches scheduled in the second round and quarter-finals combined, each host could get one, to complete its four-match allocation. The action could then shift to a single host which would stage the semi-finals and final, probably over a five-day period.
Georgia would be prepared to share a group with Azerbaijan, or other near neighbours such as Belarus, Russia or Turkey, said Sichinava.
One attraction of the multi-national idea would be to include countries which could never hope to host a major championship alone.
“We feel that a lot of small countries should have a chance,” said Netherlands official Harry Been, who was chief executive of the Netherlands-Belgium bid to host the 2018 World Cup.
“Romania is a good example. They have built a new, big stadium and they will never get a tournament like that by themselves,” Been said.
Been acknowledged that countries which recently hosted a Euro tournament, including his own, could be asked to stand aside to give other countries a chance. “We think we can offer some possibilities. In Rotterdam, they need a new stadium and it could be an incentive for them to be a Euro 2020 host city,” he said. Niersbach also highlighted Romania as a strong candidate, hosting matches in the National Arena in Bucharest which housed 52,000 fans at the Europa League final last May.
The German official suggested that Uefa’s ruling board could request more detailed studies on how to implement Platini’s idea.
Uefa’s National Teams Competitions Committee, which includes Niersbach and Been, is one potential forum to investigate options for seeking host bidders, and how to structure the final tournament.
In May, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland declared an interest in hosting Euro 2020 on a three-way basis. Regan is reported to have said to www.insidethegames.biz when asked if Scotland and Wales would be able to meet Uefa’s criteria for stadia: “There are other ways of skinning a cat and alternative ways of being considered for a major tournament.”
Scotland had also entertained a failed bid to co-host Euro 2008 with Ireland. The plan received little support and was derailed in part by the failure of the Irish to secure from the Gaelic Athletic Association the use of Gaelic games stadia.