Euro 2020: why Uefa's European tour might benefit the Euros

 

Uefa's decision to host Euro 2020 in 12 different cities is unquestionably groundbreaking.

There will also be those who say it's bonkers.

Spreading a summer football tournament across a whole continent will deny fans the chance to soak up the cultures of host countries and rob hosts of the international focus and tourism benefits.

With the Euros set to expand to 24 teams from 2016 - with those finals to be staged in France - will the tournament come to feel a bit disjointed?

European Championship history

  • First event in 1960 had four teams in the finals out of 17 that entered
  • Format of a four-team finals continued until 1976
  • Competition was expanded to eight teams in 1980
  • In 1996, when the tournament was held in England, 16 teams took part
  • The 2000 finals were the first to be hosted by two countries (Netherlands and Belgium)
  • The 2016 finals will be hosted by France with 24 teams to participate
  • Winners are presented with the Henri Delaunay Trophy, named in honour of the first general secretary of Uefa, whose brainchild the European Championship was

Then there are the logistical considerations of teams and fans criss-crossing the whole of Europe to get to and from matches.

But when the inevitable outcry has died down, it's maybe not such a bad idea.

A "Euros for Europe", as Uefa president Michel Platini put it, would take the pressure off hosts to deliver 10 or maybe more stadiums capable of hosting big international games.

In times of economic uncertainty in the Eurozone, Platini knows only a handful of countries have the money and the infrastructure to put on a mega event like this.

The experience of Ukraine and Poland was a big lesson for Uefa that taking such events to new territories has many potential benefits in opening up new markets but can cause a lot of stress along the way. Anyone who attended Euro 2012 will tell you it felt like two separate events and that the distances between the two countries were too great.

By hosting Euro 2020 in lots of countries, Platini will be able to keep to his promise - one that helped get him elected - to bring the smaller European nations to football's top table.

Besides, top players are used to flying across the continent to play in a big European tournament - it's called the Champions League.

Interestingly, this development has only come about because Turkey, the favourites to host the Euros in 2020, are bidding for the Olympics in the same year. Istanbul is the front runner there as well and Uefa knew it couldn't stage both.

For England and the Football Association, it opens up the enticing prospect of staging the Euro 2020 final without the risk of having to launch another expensive and high-profile bidding campaign.

I understand Platini met FA chairman David Bernstein and Sports Minister Hugh Robertson two weeks ago in London. The possibility of a Euro 2020 bid had already been discussed internally at the FA and Bernstein wanted to see whether Platini would support an English bid if Turkey pulled out.

Today's decision ends that debate but after what happened to England in the doomed 2018 World Cup bid contest this will be seen as a big opportunity for the FA - without the prospect of humiliation on the international stage.