7 December 2012

Platini's Euro-vision

Michel Platini with representatives of all of the UEFA Euro 2020 host countries.

UEFA have decided in their infinite wisdom to host the Euro 2020 finals in several countries across Europe.

There's no doubt that finances were a key factor in making this decision. Instead of putting the financial pressure on just one or two countries to build enough stadia and infrastructure to host a 24-team tournament, it'll instead be the fans who have to get their wallets out to spend thousands on supporting their team.

This is just the sort of idea that would come from the mouth of UEFA president Michel Platini. Just last week, he made the gob-smacking proposal to expand the Champions League to 64 teams - a move which could potentially see the 7th-best teams in the likes of England and Spain compete in a tournament originally intended for just the league winners.

I'm struggling as to how they'll organise this tournament in so many countries.

There are six groups of four teams, so potentially you could host each group in a different country. For the sake of argument, let's say that the top six European teams in the FIFA World Rankings - Spain, Germany, Portugal, Italy, England and Holland - all get a group, and all of those teams automatically qualify for their group.

Obviously, that would be very unfair on the other teams, as each of the hosts would have a massive chance to get to the last 16, to be held in God knows where or God knows how many countries. Platini and his accountant would be delighted, though, to see all of the big guns in the knockout stage.

Were each group to be staged in two countries, that would bring up further problems. Let's say that Portugal and Russia are the two hosts in a group. They'll each get three matches, but where will Portugal vs Russia be held? If it's in Lisbon, the Russkies have every right to be cheesed off, and likewise Cristiano Ronaldo would be none too pleased if he and his 22 mates had to go to Moscow.

It would be even worse for a team like Serbia if they had to fly to Moscow for one group match, then to Lisbon for the second, and then back to Moscow for the third! So much for the efforts to battle global warming.

Likewise, it would be pointless to host each group in a neutral country. I doubt that the people of Stockholm would be particularly excited to watch a dead rubber between France and Hungary.

Also, with fans reluctant to spend so much money on jet-setting across Europe just to watch their national team play, there is a real risk of matches being played in half-empty stadiums. If Platini wants Euro 2020 to see crowds of 1995 Major League Baseball proportions, he's certainly doing a good job with that.

At the very least, UEFA should emulate what they did in the European Championships from 1960 to 1976, and host the Semi Finals and Final in the same country, or even the same city. Wembley looks like the favourite to host the Finals, paving the way for the Semis to be held in two other London venues - the Emirates Stadium and the Olympic Stadium/New Boleyn Ground.

The biggest losers in all of this could be Turkey, who surprisingly were the only country to vote against this proposal. Turkey controversially lost out on hosting Euro 2016 to Platini's France, and their bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games in Istanbul was affecting their attempts to stage the Euros in the same year. One would think Platini had a vendetta against the Turks.

They, and many football supporters like myself, will be hoping that this experimental change to the European Championship format is temporary.

Sadly, it may not, and if Michel Platini becomes President of FIFA in 2015, the potential of a FIFA World Cup being staged across the planet cannot, although it absolutely must, be discarded.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.