Article written for When Saturday Comes.
Turkey had been favourites to host Euro 2020 but Istanbul’s bid for the Olympics in the same year has led to a new plan emerging. Prior to the Euro 2012 final, UEFA president Michel Platini announced that the 2020 tournament could be hosted by between “12 or 13 cities” across Europe, with 30-plus competing teams. There are economic arguments for and against hosting a major sports event. A country can benefit from increased tourism but earning the kind of revenue needed to cover the costs of updating the infrastructure requires major government intervention.
Roads, transport links and stadium reconstruction are just three of the areas that need both state and private funding. As with all large-scale projects, the cost of hosting the Euros is vague. According to Mikolaj Pitrowski, communications director of the company that co-ordinated the Euros for Poland: “The overall cost has been $27 billion (£17.5bn).” With the Ukraine spending an estimated $14bn, this adds up to roughly £27bn for both countries.
This may be a good investment for the future of these countries; Pitrowski estimated that Euro 2012 has “accelerated infrastructure development in Poland by three to five years”. But if UEFA figures are to be believed, Euro 2008 only generated $1.8bn in revenue. This leaves the taxpayers in the host countries picking up the rest of the tab. Those three to five accelerated years will be spent paying back debts incurred.
If Euro 2020 was shared among various countries, using stadiums such as Wembley, the Millennium Stadium and Stade de France, then the infrastructure is already in place to cope with large scale football events. There would be little additional cost to that host country in preparing for the championship.
Formula 1 has always been run this way, with additional host tracks added to each season. However, if the Euros were to be run along the same lines as Formula 1, the cities would be expected to pay £30-35 million for the privledge of hosting. Whether this is the intention of Michel Platini is unclear but it is not past the realms of possibility.
So what about the cost to the fans? There were widely reported issues with extortionate flight and hotel prices in the Ukraine for Euro 2012. Platini’s comment that “as you know there are low-cost airlines” insults supporters who know prices increase ten-fold when they need to travel to see their team.
If this is to be the structure of future Euros, a decision needs to be taken that each group is staged in one country: Group A in Spain, Group B in France etc. This would at least allow those four (or maybe more if Platini has his way) countries in that group to be settled in one place for a week at least. The alternative is that the national teams will stay at home and travel to individual matches. This would have a huge environmental impact, with airlines potentially transporting supporters and journalists across the continent four times a week.
Logistically, economically and environmentally the proposal looks contentious and potentially damaging to the game. However, there is a full UEFA football committee on September 26, with an executive committee meeting the following month where European competitions will be discussed. This gives Platini enough time to convince committee members about the idea. Voting for the host nation will take place in January 2013.