Platini reveals new Euro concept
KIEV, Ukraine (AP)
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The 2020 European Championship could be hosted by 12 or 13 cities across Europe in a potentially radical change to the world's second biggest football tournament, UEFA President Michel Platini said on Saturday.
Held every four years, the European Championship is second only to the World Cup in global popularity and until 12 years ago was staged in one nation. However, three of the last four editions have been co-hosted by two countries, with Poland and Ukraine staging Euro 2012 in eight cities.
Still, the financial demands on future hosts are set to spiral with UEFA having increased the event from 16 to 24 teams starting at Euro 2016 in France.
''We could either have one country with 12 host cities or have it in 12 or 13 cities all over Europe.''
The head of European football's ruling body said a decision would be taken in December or January on how to proceed with his idea. UEFA's executive committee, chaired by Platini, set May 2014 as the final deadline to decide where Euro 2020 will be played.
''It's an idea I feel really passionate about,'' said Platini, who scored nine goals as captain of the winning France team in 1984 when it hosted an eight-team tournament.
He added that ''it will be a lot easier from a financial perspective.''
The burden on host nations can be considerable, and one that's even more difficult to bear during an economic crisis across much of Europe.
Poland and Ukraine had to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure, including new or revamped stadiums, airports, public transport links, communication systems and roads.
''We won't need to build airports, especially at this moment in time when we have an economic crisis,'' Platini said.
Platini had previously acknowledged his unease that Ukrainian cities Kharkiv and Lviv got to host just three matches in return for their investment.
''We are going to have more games in the stadiums and, if we look at the investments made in stadiums for just three games, it is very expensive,'' he said Saturday.
Euro 2012 has also been expensive for fans, and most stadiums have seen significantly fewer than at previous tournaments.
Fans arrived largely by air - often on connecting flights via Germany and Austria - to reach the host cities. Gdansk on Poland's Baltic coast and Donetsk, near Ukraine's eastern border with Russia, are 1,800 kilometers (1,120 miles) apart.
''It's easier to go from London to Paris or Berlin, than Kharkiv to Gdansk,'' Platini said, to illustrate how a future multi-nation event could offer simpler, cheaper travel.
Spreading the tournament across many countries would also expand the appeal - and financial benefits - of a competition that already enjoys a huge global audience.
UEFA has predicted that a worldwide television audience of 250 million viewers will watch Spain play Italy in Sunday's final in Kiev.
Euro 2012 has provided a good return for broadcasters in more than 200 territories who paid a combined ?840 million ($1.07 billion) for media rights. They contributed 62 percent of UEFA's total commercial revenue of ?1.345 billion ($1.7 billion) for the 31-match tournament. The expected 24-team format will produce 51 matches.
Euro 2012 is being hosted by eight venues in Poland and Ukraine, with each country staging matches in four cities. Euro 2008 was co-hosted by Austria and Switzerland, while the first jointly held event was in Belgium and the Netherlands in 2000. Portugal staged Euro 2004.
Platini's announcement added fresh intrigue to a Euro 2020 bidding process which, three months ago, seemed likely to be quickly awarded to Turkey without opposition after Germany pulled back from its declared interest.
Turkey was defeated by France by a 7-6 vote of UEFA executive committee members for the Euro 2016 rights, and Platini had publicly backed its chances for 2020.
However, the position was complicated by Istanbul's candidacy for the 2020 Summer Olympics which is scheduled just weeks after the football tournament. UEFA and the International Olympic Committee agree that one country cannot host both events back-to-back.
When UEFA set a May deadline for expressions of interest in hosting Euro 2020, Turkey was joined by Georgia and a triple hosting option from Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Days later, Azerbaijan teamed with the Georgians for a co-hosting bid when the IOC rejected Baku as a potential 2020 Olympics host.
Platini said that Turkey's situation was ''ambiguous.''
''This is a problem for the (UEFA) executive committee. We're not going to wait for a decision from the IOC,'' he said.
IOC members will choose their 2020 host from three official candidates - Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo - in September 2013.