IT SEEMS the European Championships are getting bigger – both in the number of teams taking part and the number of countries involved in staging them.
From the 2016 event in France, 24 teams rather than the 16 involved in Poland and Ukraine this year will take part.
And in 2020, the tournament is to be staged in cities throughout the continent, with Wembley already pushing for the final.
When I first heard of Michel Platini’s latest plan, I thought it seemed ridiculous.
We’re used to tournaments taking place in one or at most two countries, and would Euro 96 or this year’s Olympics have been the same had part of those events taken place outside England?
Having games spread across the continent also seems a bit unfair on the faithful fans who fork out to watch their teams and will probably have to pay even more to get between the various venues.
But perhaps we should give Platini’s project a chance, because there are some positives.
For one, there won’t be the need for one or two countries to splash the cash to build or upgrade the stadia capable of hosting the games, and all the other facilities required, such as hotels, transport systems and airports – in the current tough economic climate, that well might be a good thing.
Secondly, more supporters in more countries will have a chance to see Europe’s top footballers in the flesh, which will help promote the game and attract a brand new set of followers.
And if the tournament is organised well enough, it should be possible for teams to play the bulk of their games in one area.
For instance, you could have a group centred on Wembley, Hampden, the Millennium Stadium and the Aviva in Dublin, which I should think is a smaller area than either Poland or Ukraine. That would make it easier for fans to get between the various grounds.
At this year’s finals, there were empty seats at some high-profile matches, and perhaps by spreading the games out and giving them more of a ‘special’ feel, that problem would be eliminated.
I believe the cross-continent plan has the support of the bulk of the national associations except Turkey, who were keen to stage Euro 2020 on their own, so perhaps we should reserve judgement?