Soccer’s European Championship may be played in multiple countries under a plan to spread the tournament across the continent, UEFA President Michel Platini said today.
Speaking in Kiev ahead of tomorrow’s Euro 2012 final between Spain and Italy, Platini said European soccer’s ruling body would make a decision by January. The competition is expanding to 24 teams from the current 16 for the next edition in France in 2016. Turkey and joint bids from Azerbaijan and Georgia, along with Ireland, Scotland and Wales are candidates to host in 2020.
“It’s just an idea,” Platini told a press conference at the Olympic Stadium. “Everyone’s going to think, speculate, talk, we’ve talked about 12 or 13 host cities, it could be 24 or 32.”
Poland and Ukraine this year became the first Eastern European nations to host the event in its modern form. The countries spent billions of dollars on new airports, stadiums and roads in preparation for a competition that’s sport’s most-watched after the World Cup and the Summer Olympics.
“We won’t need to build stadiums and airports especially at this time when we’ve got the economic crisis,” Platini said of his plan, which would need to be agreed by UEFA’s 17-member executive committee.
The change would be the most radical in the tournament’s 52-year history. The Euros began in 1960 with four teams in France before growing to include eight and then 16 countries. UEFA said it made 1.3 billion euros ($1.6 billion) from the current edition.
Fans have complained about transport and hotel costs between Poland and Ukraine. They’ve had to travel through third countries because of a lack of direct connections between host cities that are as much as 1,800 kilometers (1,120 miles) apart. Platini said his idea may benefit the supporters because of the number of low-cost carriers between Europe’s major capitals.
Platini was among the backers of Ukraine and Poland when they were chosen ahead of Italy, which hosted the tournament in 1980 and the World Cup in 1990. The build-up to Euro 2012 was blighted by spiraling costs and delays in both countries and political instability in Ukraine.
The Frenchman said he arrived at the tournament “tense” and had considered moving the entire event to Poland.
“I came in very tired because I had a lot of pressure on my shoulders,” he said. “It’s been the case for four or five years.”
Platini today praised the efforts of both countries to make this tournament a success.
“They’re so proud, you can’t imagine how proud they are,” he said. “They’ve done everything in their power to show they can succeed and I think they’ve done so.”