Football - 06 Dec 2012 - By Callum Murray in Lausanne
The executive committee of Uefa, European soccer’s governing body, today agreed in principle to support a radical plan by Michel Platini, its president, to host the 2020 European Championships in up to 13 cities across Europe, instead of in one or two host countries, as is the custom.
The decision was made with only one national association, that of Turkey, opposed to it, at a meeting of the executive committee in Lausanne, Switzerland, and announced at a press conference that followed the meeting this afternoon.
Gianni Infantino, Uefa’s secretary general, said: “Euro 2020 will be staged across the continent in various major cities throughout Europe. The decision follows an initial idea by Michel Platini and after that it was presented to the national associations. It was not supported by the Turkish member.
“The [Uefa] national teams competition committee will now review the proposal, and come up with concrete ideas, and report to the executive committee which will take a decision on the bid procedure after our January or March executive committee meetings.”
Infantino said the bid process will take about a year, with the host cities due to be selected in the spring of 2014.
Notwithstanding the Turkish member’s opposition, the news is likely to be welcomed especially in Istanbul, where the city’s bid to host the Olympic Games in 2020 was apparently hampered by a competing bid by the Turkish Football Federation to stage the European Championships in the same year.
Jacques Rogge, the International Olympic Committee’s president, had said publicly that the country could not host both events in the same year.
In addition to Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan were planning a joint bid to host Euro 2020, while a joint bid by Scotland, Wales and Ireland had also been mooted. However, Domenti Sichinava, the Georgian FA’s president, has already said that he would welcome a “big project” to mark the 60th anniversary of the competition, which falls in 2020, while Glasgow in Scotland has thrown its hat into the ring for consideration as one of 13 cities that could stage matches.
Asked what was the motivation for the change of hosting strategy, Infantino said: “Several reflections led to the decision – which is only about 2020 [and not future editions of the championships]. First, it is the 60th anniversary of the championships (there was no 50th because it is held every four years).
“Also, the fact that the Euro is moving to 24 teams instead of 16 adds a burden on countries to host it. It is much more difficult for many countries, the requirements are bigger and bigger. Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine was fantastic, but the governments had to do a lot in terms of infrastructure, stadia and airports.
“It is also an opportunity to give many countries and cities the opportunity to host it in times where the economic situation requires a difficult investment [to host the event in one or two countries]. There has been criticism from fans over the need to travel to matches, but this concept will give a lot of advantages: you can have fans of 12 or 15 countries who can cheer their teams at home.
“But the main point is to give more cities and countries the chance to host a celebration European Championships.”
Asked whether preference would be given to countries and cities that have never hosted a Uefa competition and might be thereby enabled to build a new national stadium, Infantino said: “It’s one of the purposes of the decision to help countries who are not sure today if they should build a national stadium.”
Nonetheless, England's Football Association is expected to put forward London's Wembley Stadium as the venue for the Euro 2020 final and there could also be bids for matches from neighbours Scotland and Wales.
Ahead of today’s decision, Wolfgang Niersbach, the president of the German FA, said that the multi-country hosting plan had already received widespread backing at meetings of Uefa’s 53 associations. He told AP: “This is the general trend around these meetings. [It is felt] Uefa should do it as an exception on the occasion of celebrating the 60th birthday of the European Championship.”
Sichinava, added: “We had a few meetings around Europe, and many countries are supporting this idea.”
The Netherlands’ Harry Been, who was the chief executive of a joint bid by the Netherlands and Belgium to host the 2018 World Cup, said: “We feel that a lot of small countries should have a chance.
“Romania is a good example. They have built a new, big stadium, and they will never get a tournament like that by themselves.”
Platini had said in June that, given the expansion of the tournament from 16 to 24 teams for Euro 2016 in France and the economic crisis engulfing much of Europe, he wanted to ease the financial burden involved in staging subsequent tournaments in just one or two countries.
Meanwhile, Gibraltar has been included in the draw for Uefa competitions for the first time, two months after being admitted as a provisional member of the federation.
Gibraltar was drawn against England, Armenia and Ireland in the qualifying competition for the 2014 European Under-17 Championships and against Croatia, the Czech Republic and Cyprus in the qualification for the Under-19 Championships.
Spain, which stakes a claim to Gibraltar, a British overseas territory, had opposed its admission to Uefa, and the respective teams were kept apart in the draws for both competitions.