Gavin HamiltonIt may come to be known as the Platini Bombshell. The suggestion from the UEFA president, that the 2020 European Championship could be played in “12 or 13 countries” across Europe, took everybody by surprise yesterday.

It was by no means a throwaway remark by Platini at yesterday’s press conference. He made a point of interrupting his general secretary Gianni Infantino to make the announcement. He later went further, hinting it could even be “24 or 32 countries”.

It remains to be seen how serious Platini is, or rather how seriously his colleagues and advisors will take such a radical proposal. Much more will be become apparent in the coming months.

For Platini to drop his bombshell during a high-profile, eve-of-final press conference suggests he wants, at the very least, a debate to take place

The cynic in me thinks Platini may have taken a leaf from the book of his old mentor Sepp Blatter. The FIFA president likes to feed the media scraps to put them off the scent of a story. Platini will have gone into yesterday’s press conference fearing that goal-line technology would dominate the agenda. His alternative system of goal-line officials has been exposed to ridicule during Euro 2012. Certainly, today’s headlines suggest Platini has steered the media agenda away from goal-line technology. Mission accomplished for Platini, perhaps?

His 2020 comments were immediately ridiculed in the Twittersphere. He’s been drinking too much vodka, he’s trying to out-Blatter Blatter etc. But ignore the doubters for a minute, suspend your cynicism. Is there any merit in Platini’s 2020 proposal?

On one level, at least, it makes some sense, as it would avoid the problems UEFA has experienced with Poland and Ukraine. Preparations for Euro 2012 were a nightmare in so many respects, from the construction of stadiums, to poor travel infrastructure and a lack of hotels. It was especially so after the smooth-run tournament on their doorstep in Austria and Switzerland in 2008.

Privately, UEFA officials concede that, 18 months ago, they were on the verge of taking the tournament away from Ukraine. Only the very real prospect of losing the finals forced the Ukraine government into action.

If UEFA were to deal with venues in 12 – or more – countries, they would effectively be dealing with host cities, rather than host countries. They could choose established stadiums in major European cities with adequate accommodation and travel infrastructures in place. There would be no concerns about half-built stadiums, unfinished transport links or corrupt government officials. UEFA could deal with host cities in the same way it deals with its annual European cup final hosts.

But, and it’s a big but. The commonsense option would be to choose stadiums in established western European cities: Paris, Madrid, Milan, London, Munich. Yet the political realities of UEFA’s 53-strong membership would mean decisions being taken to satisfy the demands of UEFA members across the continent. And that, inevitably would mean less established cities – Donetsk, for example – bidding for host status.

And that is where the problems would start.

The difficulties that we have experienced in Ukraine and, to a lesser extent, Poland, over the past few weeks would be multiplied 10-fold. And the losers would be, you guessed it, the fans.

Platini’s response when questioned about the cost of flying between venues in a 12-nation tournament was instructive. “There are low-cost airlines,” he said.

Those were the words of a man who has spent too much time on a private jet during Euro 2012. And not enough time with fans on 15-hour overnight train journeys.

Maybe Platini is preparing people for the prospect of multi-country hosting, such the mooted “Celtic” bid from Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

The reality of an expanded, 24-team Euros is that no single country outside of the established nations of Western Europe – England, Germany, France, Italy, Spain – can entertain any hopes of hosting the tournament on its own. Multi-hosting will be the norm. So maybe Platini is preparing us for that prospect by raising the more extreme option of multi multi-hosting.

Euro 2012 has been a wonderful tournament, especially if you have watched on TV (and have not had to endure the extensive travelling). With the exception of the Republic of Ireland, every team have shown qualities that place them in the top tier of European football.

Platini was at pains to point out that quality teams are missing from Euro 2012 but could make it in 2016 with the new, expanded format. However, apart from Belgium, I’m struggling to think of any others. Platini mentioned Scotland, Serbia and Norway; I’m not convinced.

In Poland and Ukraine we’ve seen some terrific football, played in a great spirit – ironically, in part thanks to the additional goal-line officials, who have performed a major role in helping to eliminate diving and fabrication.

Savour Euro 2012 while you can. There will not be another tournament like it.

By Gavin Hamilton

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  • Udo Zimmermann

    Dear or not dear Gavin Hamilton,

    You write in the issue ’July 2012’ on page 62 ’Balotelli’s blitzkrieg […]’ and repeat this infamous word of national-socialistic language without being in italics (!!!) in your article.

    This is absolutely unacceptable and you disqualify your ambitious journal to the level of boulevard journalism especially in England.
    Shame, shame on you !!!
    Why you use faschistic language which brought death on hundreds of thousands of innocent people?
    Do you like this comparison, and if so, as you have shown, why?
    How this attitude goes in a way with your, then hypocritical, comments on racism?

    The minimum reaction for this absolutely terrible, anti-humanistic statement (not talking about the implications to Mario Balotelli as he is practizing ’blitzkrieg’ – have you ever read about it and what happened during a ’blitzkrieg’?) is to apologize in your editorial note.

    Once your German partner-magazine ’kicker’ wrote in the early ’90s about a UEFA cup match between Gornik Hindenburg (!) and in the same issue, how the tanks have been rolling over other teams in Europe.
    I wrote a personal email to the then chief editor, Rainer Holzschuh, you might know him, and he apologized in the magazine and a personal letter for this absolutely unacceptable language, and this revanchistic wording never happened again in ’kicker’.

    You have to do some serious homework to reach that class of journalism, sorry.

    Furthermore, and much less serious in comparison, but only viewed on the football level, your faut-pas on page 62, second column end of first paragraph is mind-blowing and seems to unmasked your poor knowledge in terms of international football.
    Germany scored a goal against Italy in a tournament semi-final and possibly one of the most famous ever! Please get yourself a lesson in football history about the goal, the significance, the importance and the sensational consequences by schnellingers goal in Mexico against Italy.
    Although Brian Glanville is, according to his columns, not a friend of German football, he wont deny that this goal is one of the most important ones in football history, and one of the most ugly ones as well, possibly.

    However, this should not minimize the tremendous use of national-socialistic language and I hope very much that your readers receive a statement in regard of your diffamistic writing style.
    Why on Earth we as interested football fans have to read about ’blitzkrieg’, is there no other word in your journalistic knowledge?

    Regards

    Udo Zimmermann

    Associate Professor
    Dr. rer. nat. Udo Zimmermann
    Provenance
    University of Stavanger
    Department of Petroleum Engineering
    4036 Stavanger
    Norway

  • Ilkka

    It’s time to give 10 points
    to the Polish cameraman
    in the QF Match opening ceremony.
    He chose a really funny camera view
    for the television
    R E S P E C T D I V E R S ( I T Y ) !
    and the rest of letters were left behind the player

  • Gordon

    “Platini mentioned Scotland, Serbia and Norway; I’m not convinced.”

    As opposed to what? England? “ROFL”, as the kids might say.

    The tournament needs to be expanded not because Scotland, Serbia etc. are great sides who missed out, but because the current small size means it is almost a knock-out from day one. You either lose one group game and you are out, or everyone loses one and you have daft groups where all 4 teams on the same points and it comes down to which side used less magic spray over the 3 games as to who goes through. They also want it expanded because more teams in the competition means more revenue, and UEFA know a thing or two about extracting every euro from a tournament (do we even need to say the words “champions league”, a tournament that only just manages not to have games in every single month of the year).

  • Antoine

    Well FYI, in 2016, the Euro will take place in France, the old fashion way. So I don’t really get your last sentence…?

  • Tazuik

    “The difficulties that we have experienced in Ukraine and, to a lesser extent, Poland, over the past few weeks would be multiplied 10-fold. And the losers would be, you guessed it, the fans.”

    Geez, maybe if you stopped whining, relaxed and got into the flow of things you might have enjoyed yourself. I spent two weeks in Ukraine, taking in all four Ukrainian host cities and I had one of the times of my life.

  • Maarten

    ‘With the exception of the Republic of Ireland, every team have shown qualities that place them in the top tier of European football.’

    ..the fact that we already forgot about the dramatic exit from the Dutch, says enough about their piss-poor performance this year.

  • Rudd

    The Republic of Ireland qualified for the tournament , and that alone puts them in the top 16 teams. I think you may want to look at the negative performance England , who, after this is all over, do not deserve to be in the top 20 in the world yet alone Europe. Finally, a mention please for the Irish fans, all 30,000 of them , who were a credit to football and their country.