So Monsieur Platini looks to be getting his way and the European Championship will become a multi-centre holiday for the suits of UEFA. While it is understandable that the continent should make allowances for an economic crisis that clearly everyone expects to still be in full swing in 2020 (it could be even worse!), this move may well signal the end of the tournament.
Why? It will basically mean that after the usual protracted qualifying tournament, the 24-team format will move to another dispersed mini qualifying tournament before settling down into a centralized semi-final and final structure in one location. Now that sounds familiar – almost like pre-1980.
For a start, 24 teams is a bad idea, and I haven’t met anyone – I guess I don’t hang out in the gastropubs of Nyon, Switzerland – who believes it is necessary. More teams will mean that the quality will undoubtedly suffer. One of the Euro’s strengths is its concentration of half decent teams, unlike the bloated,”let’s fill it with minnows”, structure that is FIFA’s plaything.
Admittedly, the world is getting smaller and travel that much easier, but the great joy of the World Cup and the European Championship is its heady mixture of a “Football Expo” and an urban carnival. Having experienced both World Cup 2006 and Euro 2008, I can vouch for the great atmosphere that permeates the countries that host these events.
Perhaps UEFA is trying to be too democratic. It’s getting increasingly difficult to find new locations, hence Ukraine and Poland in 2012. There were fears that it would be a disaster, but it was a great competition and despite some problems, seemed to go off well. The traditional “homes” of European football have their difficulties at present: Italy, Spain and Portugal are deep in the mire, France is teetering on the brink and England is being coalitioned to death. That leaves – and no-one will be too surprised to hear that all strasses lead to Berlin – Germany!
So, Platini and co. have run out of options. UEFA’s greed has led them to bolster a structure that already works to one that is hard to manage. As a result, they cannot force such a large tournament on the single or dual host structure, so they are “spreading the love”. It will not be an attractive option for those fans that want to enjoy a footballing holiday. If it’s getting too big, shrink it, not expand it! Once again, Platini has proved that great footballers do not make competent administrators or businessmen.