Has Platini just torpedoed European Football with his 2020 vision
23:12 GMT, 6 December 2012
It is not a grand plan. That’s the first thing you need to know. Michel Platini’s scheme to hawk the 2020 European Championship around the continent, a nomadic mish-mash of flights and fixtures, is not some brilliant idea he has spent years fine-tuning.
He couldn’t keep his mouth shut. That was the problem. The president torpedoed UEFA’s own bidding process for 2020 and was left with two choices: a co-hosting arrangement between Georgia and Azerbaijan, or potentially playing second fiddle to the Olympics in Turkey. Nobody else wanted to know.
So, UEFA’s executive committee developed a brilliant alternative with Platini’s guidance: a Euro for Europe.
All aboard: Michel Platini's bold vision for Euro 2020 has fired a torpedo into the heart of European Football
Matches across the continent, fans scurrying from one country to the next at huge expense. How far, who knows Locations We’ll get back to you. A blueprint Now, where did I put that fag packet
The bidding to host the 2020 European Championship opened on March 21 with a final decision expected later next year or in early 2014.
So, plenty of time for executives to consider the available options, visit the sites, study infrastructure issues and factor in the needs of the fans.
Except on March 23, two days after a 20-month bidding process began, Platini announced he would be voting for Turkey. At that point, nine other bidders had shown interest: Germany, Holland, Belgium, Czech Republic/Slovakia, Azerbaijan/Georgia, Serbia/Croatia/Bosnia-Herzegovina, Romania/Bulgaria and Romania/Hungary.
Overnight, enthusiasm evaporated. As other countries did not fancy spending millions on a doomed campaign, host interest quickly dwindled.
Then Platini discovered that Turkey was also bidding to welcome the world to an Olympics in Istanbul in 2020, and were quite well fancied to succeed. Why this was a surprise, who knows
As a leading sports administrator it
shouldn’t really have escaped Platini’s attention that Istanbul had
also tried to host the Games in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012. Maybe he
could have recalled the location of the 2005 Champions League final: the
Olympic Stadium, Istanbul.
Something funny going on: If only Platini hadn't let slip he'd vote for Turkey …
That Turkey’s constitution incorporates part of the Olympic charter was a sign they were keen on the idea, too.
Indeed, in accepting Istanbul’s candidacy, International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge announced that only the Olympic aim, not the 2020 European Championship bid, had official backing from the Turkish government.
From that point, Platini’s baby was in trouble. The host application process closed on May 15. Panicking, with so few takers, Platini extended it.
No doubt he has spent the last six months trying to drum up interest, without success. Yesterday’s decision was the act of a desperate man.
That only Turkey opposed the scheme shows how spectacularly he has undermined the host process.
This Euro for Europe is said to be a
one-off. If it were a good idea, it would have been announced as a
permanent arrangement. It is a stopgap, a fudge, a face-saving exercise
for a clown who is on the brink of ruining what many regarded as the
greatest football tournament, better even than the Champions League or
Indeed if this were all a mad wager, a drunken bet struck after a night on the hard stuff, it would just about make sense.
Spanish style: The 2012 champions faced challenges in almost every game, something unlikely to happen when the tournament expands for France 2016
Platini meets a fan raving about the 16-team European Championship finals. Loving its intensity, its high standard, the immediacy of its challenge. It is bomb-proof, he says. Nobody, not even a complete idiot, could make it fail. Platini slams €10 on the counter, and eyes him blearily. ‘Wanna bet’ he says.
And here he comes now, riding a giant missile like Major Kong in the film Dr Strangelove into a tournament that was practically perfect before he arrived.
The next European Championship, in France in 2016, will be the first held to the format that is Platini’s other grand design: 24 qualified teams.
We all know the problem here. What made the old European Championship, the one that breathed its last in Kiev on July 1 with a magical performance from Spain, so wonderful was its streamlined quality. Every team was useful, each opponent a threat. Competitors hit the ground running, or were eliminated trying.
This summer, the first round of matches pitted England against France, Germany against Portugal and Spain against Italy. When Platini spoke of his expanded competition he flagged up names like Norway and Scotland as if these nations would be a positive addition.
Already, there are problems selling the television rights for the qualification process, because when almost half of Europe makes it through to the finals, the number of dead rubbers and pedestrian contests between nations whose route is as good as guaranteed will increase.
Steve McClaren’s woeful England would almost certainly have made it to the finals had the 2008 tournament featured 24 teams, meaning the Wembley loss to Croatia would have been met with a shrug.
Spare a thought: The 2020 format means more airports, more queues and greater expense for fans
There will be a lot of shrugging in 2016; probably until the competition eliminates eight of its 24 qualifiers — yes, it will be harder to get knocked out than go through — and so of the old urgency returns.
At least in 2016, though, fans will navigate one country, with a decent road and rail network, making for coherent travel plans. Add another four years and who knows where everyone will be. If it’s Tuesday it might be Reykjavik, Wednesday Rotterdam, Thursday Manchester, Friday Madrid.
There will be no sense of being at the hub of the action, just a long list of trains, boats and planes. Soulless airport lounges and dashes to the next destination.
Platini thinks the fans can exist on a diet of cheap flights and cheaper hotels, not that he will be in the bundle for boarding at Stansted too often.
Wherever the matches end up, you can guarantee Platini will be travelling in the style to which he is accustomed, untouched by his own lunacy or by the rotten idea generator that passes for insight in the offices of UEFA.
‘Some important decisions have been taken,’ said general secretary Gianni Infantino. Indeed they have. UEFA have decided you don’t matter; they have decided to sweep up the president’s mess yet again; and they have decided to ruin another edition of what was the greatest football tournament of them all. What wonderful decision- makers they are.
Wouldn’t it be amusing if the fans decided to leave them alone in the easyJet queue, to sit this one out by themselves