UEFA unveils Euro 2020 plan
NYON, Switzerland (AP)
Thirteen countries will host the 2020 European Championship, UEFA decided Friday, with each host providing a single stadium for the 24-team tournament.
In an effort to encourage smaller countries to join the project, the UEFA executive committee pledged to choose two stadiums holding as few as 30,000 spectators. Other stadiums must have a 50,000 capacity, which at least 20 of UEFA's 53 member nations already have.
After UEFA promised to ease the time and cost burden on travelling fans, it aims to impose a 2-hour flight limit between group-stage matches.
UEFA President Michel Platini said Turkey - which had been favored to host Euro 2020 alone - is his choice to host the final and both semifinals.
''As far as I am concerned, yes. For the other members, I don't know,'' Platini said, referring to his 16 board colleagues.
However, Platini ruled out a Turkish bid if Istanbul is chosen in September to host the 2020 Olympics, scheduled several weeks after the June football tournament.
''If they do get the Olympic Games then it is out of the question for Turkey to organize a match of the Euro,'' Platini said.
UEFA wants formal bids submitted in September, probably after the International Olympic Committee chooses Istanbul, Madrid or Tokyo for the 2020 Summer Games.
Euro 2020 host cities will be chosen in September 2014.
The final and semifinals will be played in a 70,000-plus stadium, and England's promised offer of Wembley Stadium will be a strong contender. Countries bidding for the final stages can also bid for an earlier package of four matches.
Twelve packages will be awarded to a stadium staging three group matches and one match in the knockout rounds. The two smaller stadiums can host round-of-16 matches but not a quarterfinal.
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UEFA said that each group can include a maximum of two hosts, playing two matches at home. Every country must qualify for the tournament with no direct entry for hosts.
With UEFA requiring hosts to begin building projects by 2016, some countries could invest in a new stadium then fail to qualify.
UEFA secretary general Gianni Infantino said preference for the two smaller-stadium slots could be given to countries investing in a new home ground.
The radical Euro 2020 plan shapes as a defining project of Platini's UEFA leadership, and a potential statement of his inclusive style ahead of an expected run at the FIFA presidency in 2015.
Platini floated the idea last June after seeing how Euro 2012 co-hosts Poland and Ukraine were stretched to invest billions of dollars in airports, stadiums and roads. He later lamented how so few fans travelled to the eastern European neighbors with expensive flight and hotel options for the far-flung host cities.
''I believe all the major capitals will be linked by low-cost airlines,'' Platini said of the likely Euro 2020 hosts. ''This was not the case in Poland and Ukraine where it was harder for us to get our job done.''
Platini said UEFA would ''try to stick'' to the 2-hour travel limit.
''We will see how we can help fans travel. Maybe we generate further criteria down the road with respect to travelling,'' he said, quipping that he had ''organized a suggestion box at UEFA.''
In contrast, the Euro 2016 project in Platini's native France seems simple despite being the first with 24 teams instead of 16.
UEFA confirmed Friday that the 51-match tournament would be played in 10 stadiums: Bordeaux, Lens, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Paris, Saint-Etienne, Toulouse and the Stade de France in Saint-Denis.