Turkey bids for place on football map at Euro 2016

Turkey hopes its political appeal and promise of social progress

can overcome more traditional bids from France and Italy for

hosting the 2016 European Championship.

Turkey’s bid team is preparing for President Abdullah Gul to

help present its case in Geneva on Friday to 13 voting members of

UEFA’s ruling executive.

The Turkish team will remind European soccer’s governing body

that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has guaranteed the entire

$1.14 billion budget for work on nine stadiums needed to host the

monthlong, 24-team tournament.

Turkey’s message is that, as a majority Muslim country, hosting

the world’s third most popular sports event behind the Olympics and

World Cup will “make a great contribution to the mission of UEFA

to integrate different cultures.”

“We represent the new Europe,” said Turkey soccer federation

president Mahmut Ozgener.

Turkey is bidding for the third time and has never hosted a

major soccer event. It was not even a member of UEFA when the first

European Championship was staged by France in 1960; Turkey was

accepted two years later.

In contrast, France and Italy represent older European soccer

powers, with each hosting two previous European Championships and

two World Cups.

Each hopes that hosting Euro 2016 will help modernize stadiums

that have fallen below the highest European standards since they

hosted a World Cup in the 1990s.

The French bid needs $2.1 billion to be spent on 12 stadiums,

including four new arenas, with $820 million pledged from public

funds. UEFA’s technical evaluation of the bids expressed concern

that less than half of the $1.22 billion in private funding was

already secured.

“Our main guarantee to UEFA is that our projects are not

dependent on the Euro,” said French League president Frederic

Thiriez. “Our stadiums will be renovated whatever happens.”

France’s bid won praise from UEFA for outlining “a very good

long-term legacy” for soccer and escaped any major criticism. It

also could benefit from the blessing of UEFA president Michel

Platini, who captained France to victory when it last hosted in

1984.

Platini cannot take part in the debate or voting Friday.

UEFA has picked on several potential problems with the Italy

bid, including stadium and ticket costs, regional airports and a

lack of overall vision for the event.

Former playing great Paolo Maldini will help make Italy’s

presentation.

“We’ve presented a serious and credible bid,” said Italian

federation president Giancarlo Abete, another UEFA executive member

who cannot vote. “If we don’t win, we will be very attentive that

the other candidates’ projects are completed.”

Turkey’s challenge is convincing UEFA it can deliver the modern

transportation necessary to move fans between eight proposed host

cities, all in the central and west regions.

UEFA will choose a 2016 host while still uncertain about

Ukraine’s ability to create infrastructure in time to co-host Euro

2012 with Poland. The eastern European neighbors were given just

five years to prepare, although for a 16-nation, 31-match

tournament.

UEFA expanded the 2016 event to include eight extra teams

playing 51 total matches.

Revenue should also grow, strengthening the event’s status as

trailing only the World Cup and Summer Olympics on the global

sports stage.

Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland generated a profit of $394

million on television and marketing deals worth $2 billion. It also

delivered a television audience averaging 166 million per match,

according to figures presented to the International Olympic

Committee last year. The 2008 Super Bowl was seen by 104 million

worldwide.

Turkey’s bid team is enthusiastic to share its story.

“It is the perfect opportunity to tell about developing Turkey,

its young population and the new stadiums,” project director Orhan

Gorbon said.