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?
IT WAS great to see Celtic make the last 16 of the Champions League.
When you think that neither Chelsea, the holders, or Manchester City have managed it, it shows just what an achievement it was for manager Neil Lennon, right, and his players.
There are a few we recognise from playing their football in England – Gary Hooper from his time at Scunthorpe and Kris Commons, who was at Stoke, Nottingham Forest and Derby – and Lennon has done a great job, not only in building a talented team on a tight budget, but in coming up with the tactics to get hugely impressive wins over Barcelona in Glasgow and Spartak Moscow home and away.
It’s been said that in relative terms, getting to the last 16 of this season’s tournament is on a par with Celtic becoming the first British team to win the European Cup back in 1967.
It will also provide a major boost to the Scottish game, which is in turmoil as a result of Rangers’ financial problems and their demotion to Division III.
Celtic’s league form has been a up and down, possibly because the absence of Rangers has taken away some of the edge to the Scottish game.
But I still think they will win the title, and if they could make it to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, something no Scottish side has done before, what a double that would be!
I’VE enjoyed some top tussles with Coventry City over the years.
Pitting myself against players like Dion Dublin and Darren Huckerby was really enjoyable, and Highfield Road was always a decent ground to play at.
These days the Sky Blues inhabit the Ricoh Arena – at least for the tine being.
The club are in a stand-off with the firm who manage the stadium over rent payments.
City have been hit with a demand to pay up, and if they don’t, could be faced with a winding up order and administration, or even worse, liquidation.
Coventry are claiming the amount of rent requested should take into account their relegation to League I and subsequent drop in revenue.
City might end up having to share a ground elsewhere. All in all it’s a mess, and a warning to others.