Michel Platini has proposed a radical change for the European Championships in 2020 but while it may be presented as a ground breaking, inclusive idea it was born out of another UEFA cock up.
Euro 2020 had long been ear marked for Turkey on the basis that they did not bid for the Olympic Games in the same year, when they did UEFA were left high and dry and Platini floated his idea to have several host cities across Europe.
Details are very sketchy at the moment but Platini has said it would probably involve 12 or 13 host cities but could be as many as 32.
When the issue of cost to supporters was put to Platini he responded with: “there are budget airlines these days.” Not that he has ever been on one, or considered that flights don’t remain budget when their destination is a city hosting part of a major football tournament.
The logic behind it is it will prevent the high cost of stadiums and infrastructure which can be underused after the tournament is over.
However Platini has some of the most sophisticated football countries in the world at his disposal, there are plenty capable of being single host nations so his decision to maximise the cost to fans is a baffling one.
His plans will interest a lot of countries who perhaps wouldn’t have much chance of hosting their own tournament, Scotland, Wales and Ireland for example.
That format will lack the flavour of one or two host countries, where fans of different nations mix and the atmosphere builds up during the tournament creating a buzz which won’t be possible if every team is spread around the continent.
UEFA’s wisdom has already led to a major change in format for EURO 2016 in France, increasing the numbers of teams from 16 to 24 meaning nearly half of UEFA’s members will be at the tournament.
While this gives nations with an outside chance of qualifying normally a greater chance it dilutes the quality of an already very successful and exciting tournament.
Group stages at the Euros are normally more exciting than at the World Cup, usually throwing up interesting ties and giving less chance of groups being a formality.
Four teams of the standard of Germany, Portugal, Holland and Denmark being drawn together at Euro 2012 was terrific box office and is unlikely to happen in future.
Euro 2016 will also include the rather embarrassing prospect of three out of four teams qualifying from four of the groups.
The new format will include six groups of four teams; the top two will qualify automatically and the four teams with the most points in third place will qualify to make up a last 16, as opposed to the last 8 we’ve seen in other tournaments.
Although UEFA are still deliberating over the tournament set up this is the format that seems most likely to be implemented.
How do you say “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” in French?
image: © klearchos