Platini's flight of fancy will give fans travel sickness while greedy UEFA swell their coffers at YOUR expense
23:01 GMT, 7 December 2012
The EasyJet 2020 European Championship has a certain ring to it. The Ryanair-miles 2020 Nations Cup is not beyond the bounds of possibility.
Don’t scoff. The plan is already at the departure gate. UEFA chief Michel Platini has helped himself to Duty Free and he is now wheeling his latest idiotic idea through the Nothing To Declare But My Greed channel at airports across Europe.
The new UEFA wheeze is to take what is widely regarded as a fantastic international tournament of concentrated excellence and dismantle it; ruining the format by scattering Euro 2020 games throughout the continent, having already diluted the quality for the 2016 tournament by increasing the number of competing nations from 16 to 24.
Greed: UEFA president Michel Platini (below) wants to rip up a superb football tournament for his new vision
There has been no great clamour from supporters for this. No fans’ groups have lobbied for change, demanded more teams, or more travel. But there is money to be had and the souvenirs are already on the drawing board. Top of the list is the ‘UEFA travel mug’ — because that’s how they see you.
Sponsors, advertisers, television executives, marketeers, travel operators, hoteliers and, crucially, UEFA delegates are rubbing their hands with glee at his proposed tournament. But, as ever, one key part of football is forgotten in the ‘exciting, new format’. The supporters.
The paying public are expected to shut up, cough up and be downright grateful for the chance to watch a first-round game in Dublin and then fly to Berlin and Istanbul for the remaining group matches.
When Platini was asked in a press conference how he thought an England supporter could afford to go from one airport to another, he shrugged: ‘As you know, there are budget airlines.’
If there was enough money on the table, I wouldn’t put it past football’s arrogant little Napoleon to play the first half of a match in one city and the second in another.
No matter that the new Euro format will cost you a fortune. Forget that it will be a logistical nightmare, even if games are grouped in smaller geographical regions. Abandon the thought that the competition might have the feel of a national festival with its own character, cuisine and quirks. That will all be lost — and you have no say in it.
You are considered no more than sheep. You are herded from one place to another with little consideration and treated with the kind of like-it-or-lump-it contempt Michael O’Leary reserves for his Ryanair passengers. But at least he usually has the nous to keep the ‘ordeal’ cheap. Not that it will stay that way when the fixtures are announced. Those budget airlines will cash in like everyone else.
Who can forget these golden Euro moments Stuart Pearce (left) and Paul Gascoigne (right) celebrate in 1996
Boy wonder: Wayne Rooney celebrates his second goal in England's 4-2 win over Croatia in Lisbon in 2004
Danny boy: England striker Welbeck (left) scores against Sweden with a brilliant backheel
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Football is one of the few mass entertainment industries that does not put its paying audience first. Fans are fleeced every season as clubs owned by billionaires and oligarchs hike up ticket prices.
A new first, second and even third strip appears in the ‘megastore’ every season. Kick-off times are designed to suit TV schedulers, or set for the convenience of viewers in the growing markets of the Far East.
The Football Supporters’ Federation told me the number of away supporters attending matches in this country is falling because of unrealistic ticket prices and punishing travel costs.
But despite that backdrop of economic hardship, Platini thinks it is the right time to launch another pan-European flight exodus. I’m not sure how this sits with UEFA’s green initiatives. During this summer’s European Championship I was actually sent a press release for UEFA’s ‘eco-friendly fan camp’.
It said: ‘In the middle of a big city we will show how easy it is to take care of the environment — you will find eco-tips on how each of us can have a positive impact for the benefit of the environment.’
I didn’t quite make it to UEFA’s ‘Eco fan camp’, but one tip I might suggest is not to ask armies of football supporters to zig-zig across Europe on a jetplane for no discernible reason other than greed and political brokering.
But then I remembered Platini was a key backer in Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid.
If he can melt the ice caps with all those Euro flights, the Middle East might be quite habitable by the time the tournament comes around.
We could all just stay at home, of course.
Sinking without trace
British Swimming has finally issued its overdue report into the 25million failures at the London Olympics pool. I think Rebecca Adlington summed up the conclusions rather well.
‘It’s an absolute mess,’ she said. ‘It told us nothing we didn’t already know. I feel insulted, disheartened and saddened by the way they have ignored us, the swimmers, in all of this.’
Highlights included the fact that British Swimming had delivered a lot of fifth-place finishes, as if that was going to justify massive public funding.
Let down: Rebecca Adlington has spoken out about her disappointment with British Swimming
The panel’s chairman, Craig Hunter, said: ‘Systems and processes in place did not function as well as they should, particularly over the final period of the quadrennial cycle.’
What that gobbledegook actually means is ‘they completely cocked it up in Olympic year’.
Having a performance director that lived in Australia didn’t help. But the year ahead is shaping up as another shambles, since the nation’s swimmers are currently unable to plan their training programmes because they have not been told when the world championship trials will be.
Meanwhile, top 200 metres swimmer Ellen Gandy, a poster girl for the 2012 Games, has decided she has more chance of success with Australia at the next Olympics.
About time too…
Queens Park Rangers have cancelled their
Christmas party. Asked why this had happened, a club spokesman
announced: ‘Have you seen the league table’
And in that moment there
was a sign that sanity was finally taking hold in west London.
At least performance chief Michael Scott and senior coach Dennis Pursley had the decency to resign in the wake of all this turmoil. British Swimming chief executive David Sparkes is still in place.
He said: ‘If you look at all the results, across all the disciplines, I don’t think there’s any justification for me to consider my position at this time.’
Interesting. Aside from the one silver and Adlington’s two bronzes in the pool, it seems Sparkes believes a bronze medal in diving, a single match won between both the men and women water polo teams, a fifth by the synchronised swimmers, and Paralympic successes are enough for him to cling on. So well done the Paralympic team. You saved British Swimming’s chief executive.
Adlington, the most successful British swimmer of the modern era, said of the current state of the sport: ‘It’s stupid . . . it’s a mess . . . people needed guidance.’
In doing so, the 23-year-old spoke more sense in an angry plea for her sport than I’ve ever heard from the defensive, self-preserving suits running around on expense accounts.
In fact, if the proud Adlington ever decides to quit competitive swimming, I’ll join any campaign to make her chief executive.
Cook's recipe for success leaves a sweet taste
Tennis, golf, cycling and athletics have all provided the nation with sporting icons this year, but surely cricket’s finest batsman deserves to take a bow, too.
England’s Alastair Cook somehow combines understated modesty with supreme assurance. He scores runs when it matters, and does it with the unhurried artistry of a true master.
At the age of 27, Cook is already shattering records. But there are no displays of ego, no celebrity magazine shoots, no tattoos, no fraternising with the enemy, no mercenary dashes to collect dollars or rupees and no doubts about his loyalty or intent. Cook is just quality and class.
Brilliant and modest: England captain Alastair Cook is breaking batting records while staying grounded
It’s open season if you fancy threatening the ref
official. From now, it is perfectly possible to justify violent and
threatening behaviour against a referee. You just have to claim that you
thought you heard them say something nasty.
Mikel Obi was handed a fine of around five days’ wages and told he was
not allowed to play football for three matches in response to the crime
of launching himself into the officials’ dressing room in a fury.
Reports allege that he shouted at referee Mark Clattenburg that he would
‘break his legs’.
Ox is a stand-up guy
If his football talents desert him, Alex
Oxlade-Chamberlain might care to hone his obvious gift for comic timing.
As the Arsenal player accepted the Best International Newcomer award
from the Sports Journalists’ Association at the Tower of London ceremony
this week, he opened an eloquent chat with the ever-professional Jim
Rosenthal with a fine quip.
The Gunners’ Ox said: ‘It’s an honour to
win… well, anything really.’
But the FA were able to understand
why: ‘At the time he threatened the referee, the player genuinely
believed that the referee had racially abused him. But for that factor,
the suspension would have been significantly longer.’
absurd tosh. Just because some player was running around with a
misplaced sense of grievance, it doesn’t give him licence to boot in
doors or issue warnings of grievous bodily harm.
insipid, pathetic sanction is another nail in the coffin of the
Football Association’s increasingly limp ‘Respect’ campaign. It is not
the message that the game should be sending out during a week when
amateur players in Holland beat a linesman to death.
abused nobody and the FA itself said he had no case to answer. Had
Mikel been involved in an incident like this in a Sunday league match,
the punishment would have been significantly greater.
Clattenburg missed four games — and he hadn’t done a thing. Mikel will
miss three games after being found guilty. What a joke.