UEFA has had to undertake an embarrassing climbdown after conceding, in effect, a misjudgment in trying to rush into the start of bidding for host rights to Euro 2020.
The European federation, earlier this spring, suddenly sprang on member associations a May 15 deadline for “expressions of interest” but this came and went with only one serious bid and two last-minute registrations.
Turkey had made a formal bid, predictably after losing out to France for 2016 by only one vote and despite the government’s interest in also hosting the Olympic Games in 2020.
Scotland, Wales and the Irish Republic submitted a late letter of intent and Georgia, having failed to persude Azerbaijan to come on board with a co-host campaign, submitted a lone bid.
UEFA subsequently had to issue a statement saying that other countries could still be able to bid for the championships – even if they had not declared an interest before yesterday’s ‘dead’ deadline.
The European body confirmed only that “some national associations” had expressed their interest in bidding but did not reveal any names of countries involved.
It said: “UEFA will now launch a formal process which will allow any of its 53 members associations to submit their candidature, irrespective of whether or not they declared a preliminary interest in hosting the 24-team competition.”
The bidding process will last approximately 18 months. A decision on the Euro 2020 hosts is expected at the beginning of 2014.
Scottish FA chief executive Stewart Regan insisted there had been no attempt by UEFA to persuade the Celtic nations to declare an interest to prevent a situation where Turkey looked likely to be the only candidate.
He said: “The only encouragement was in the letter from UEFA that came out to all the associations with the acknowledgement that bids from more than two countries would be considered – that was the first time that had been put on record.”
Football bidding at top level has come under much-increased scrutiny after the murky events surrounding FIFA’s 2018 and 2022 World Cup awards.
The financial rewards and international focus are immense from international sport’s ‘third event’ – after the World Cup and Olympic Games – which is why it’s surprising that UEFA did not take greater care over 2020.
Eight years’ distance means there was no practical need to rush to judgment as the original imposition of a May 15 deadline, at short notice, had created.
The Turkish federation – and government – are relieved by UEFA’s step back because they are not exposed just at a highly delicate time.
Next week in Quebec the IOC decides whether the Istanbul bid for the 2020 Olympics – along with four other bids – should be approved for a final stage of campaigning. The Turks had feared a negative fall-out among the IOC over their Olympic ambitions had they been the lone Euro candidate
UEFA’s decision has taken the heat off the Turks and, simultaneously, given the European federation more time and a less fevered atmosphere in which to assess all the latest twists and turns in the matchfixing scandal.