Euro for Europe: a bad idea fuelled by too much thought
Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests: the host for the 2020 European Championship is [cue tension, cue anticipation] . . . Europe!
[Cue awkward applause, cue bemusement, cue anticlimax].
A bit of humour at the Uefa Christmas party? If only.
Just to prove that Michel Platini, the Uefa president, was not joking last summer with this idea, the European governing body made the announcement on Thursday that, yes, he was being serious. He was, and remains, completely abstemious. Platini is a visionary, you see.
“Some important decisions have been taken,” Gianni Infantino, the Uefa general secretary, said. “Uefa Euro 2020 will be staged across the continent, in various major cities, following a decision taken today. A Euro for Europe follows an initial idea by Uefa president Michel Platini. The response has been extremely positive from all the national associations.” Uefa has not yet decided on the format of the tournament, or even the number of cities involved, but will initiate a bidding process next March and make a decision 12 months later. Wembley will bid for the final but is sure to acquire at least some of the matches.
We have come a long way since 1976 when the tournament involved just four matches in two Yugoslavian cities. We have even come a long way since 2012 when the tournament involved just 32 matches in two countries. The fear now is that Fifa, the game’s world governing body, will take note and do something similar with the World Cup . . . like stage it throughout the world in 2026. (And to think that Fifa staged the 1930 World Cup in just one city: Montevideo. Conversley, the 2007 Asian Cup, won by Iraq, was staged in four countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam).
Platini has the luxury of disseminating his bad ideas and getting them approved, because he has the establishment, with its insatiable appetite for money, there to help him. He can do his travelling by helicopter. If the Euro 2020 semi-finals are in, say, Tirana, and the final is in, say, London – not a problem. Platini will be there to absorb the love of the punters.
In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king . . .
The problem for Uefa, presumably, was in finding suitable hosts. Turkey, the original favourites to host the tournament, but now ridden with problems, was less than keen once Istanbul became the favourite to land the 2020 Olympic Games.
European Championships are not cheap to run and often result in heavy losses. But this problem would not exist if these tournaments did not suffer from elephantitis in the first place. For Euro 2016 in France, there will be 24 qualifiers, which is nearly half of all competing nations. Two years of qualifying matches just to cut the numbers in half. Pure lunacy. "It will be a lot easier from a financial perspective for all the countries," Infantino added. "If you need to build airports or 10 stadiums in a country, this would be rather easy because it would be one stadium per host city."
In other words, the tournament is too big for one nation so let us give it to every nation. Henri Delaunay, the Frenchman who invented the tournament (and who was a real visionary), might today be spinning in his grave at Platini's folly.
As Del Boy said to Rodney in Only Fools and Horses (Healthy Competition; Series 3; 1983), “The trouble with you, Rodney, you will insist on thinking.”