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Keir RadnedgeTheo Zwanziger has thrown his support behind Michel Platini’s proposal to spread the European Championship finals over 13 cities in 13 different countries in 2020.

Platini sprang the idea on his surprised UEFA executive committee during its meeting in Kyiv at the end of the Euro 2012 finals. He saw this as a practical solution, given that original 2020 favourite Turkey had become distracted by Istanbul’s Olympic bid and other major nations were baulking at the staging costs in the current economic climate.

The idea is now being considered by Europe’s 53 national associations. They have been asked to report back to UEFA headquarters in Nyon by December and then a decision will be taken in January.

Initially Platini’s proposal was greeted with a mixture of disbelief and derision. But officials and observers are starting to see the benefits of an entirely new approach to a hosting crisis sparked by the ‘gigantism’ induced by commercial greed.

Now Zwanziger has become the first senior international official to come out publicly in favour. Zwanziger was ousted earlier this year as president of the German federation but holds significant roles as a member of the UEFA and FIFA executive committees. He is also heading up a review of FIFA statutes in the governance reform process.

The idea which appears to be crystalising in Platini’s mind – judging from his comments to journalists in Monaco last week – is for the six finals groups to be staged in half a dozen two-centre ‘clusters’. These cities would share the knockout ties in second round and quarter-finals. The semi-finals and final would be staged in one city (English and German media have both talked up the prospects for Wembley and Berlin respectively).

Swanziger said: “I do not believe that this is idea which should be dismissed out of hand so quickly as some people have tried. It’s a very interesting concept for those of us who believe in European development in general and European football in particular.

“It would mean creating a hosting network and means that some cities and countries who would otherwise never have a chance of the finals as they are now could join in.”

Zwanziger then addressed the core of the issue: “We have big problems with the European Championship hosting applications. Individual countries must make enormous financial efforts to prepare eight stadia and co-hosting, as with Poland and Ukraine, means enormous distances.

“Also, consider Ukraine: the Ukrainians invested heavily in facilities and venues for the finals, much of which will not be needed again.

“The expansion to 24 teams for Euro 2016 in France is even more difficult because the host needs 12 stadia. Even a country like Italy might struggle.”

So far, three ‘expressions of interest’ have been submitted for 2020: Turkey on its own, Azerbaijan and Georgia together plus the triuvirate of Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland.

By Keir Radnedge

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