Friday, April 20, 2007


Platini in Power - update

Michel Platini was keen to make his mark on UEFA as soon as possible, and he seems to have succeeded. It was, of course, support from the “smaller” Eastern European nations which saw Platini over the line in his battle with Lennart Johansson for the UEFA presidency.

Redistributing the Champions’ League places, which appeared to be the chief item on Platini’s manifesto, will take a lot of diplomacy and political skill. But the decision to award the 2012 European Nations Cup tournament to Poland and Ukraine was a major surprise. It was not Platini’s decision, of course – the UEFA executive was responsible – but his influence would certainly have been important.

Italy, the only “established” nation in the hunt, had done themselves no favours with the Calciopoli affair of 2006 and, significantly, the actions of their police during the recent Roma v. Manchester United Champions League tie (there's nothing so damaging as recent bad news). Yet the match-fixing scandal in Poland, and the continuing decline of Hungarian football, would have taken the gloss off the other two bids.

So, can the Poles and Ukrainians make a success of it? The tournament will cover a wide area geographically (though nothing like the 1994 World Cup in this respect), infrastructure and stadia will need improvement, and there will be all the usual co-hosting problems. In many respects, it’s the equivalent of FIFA awarding the 2010 World Cup to Africa.

Yet the Euro is a much smaller event (unless the colossally stupid 24-team proposal comes to fruition, which I doubt). Little Portugal was considered hopelessly unprepared for the 2004 tournament, particularly in terms of stadia, yet they managed well.

The biggest problem could be accommodation. Poland and Ukraine are not notable tourist destinations, and hotels are apparently not up to scratch. Both countries suffer from undercurrents of hooliganism in domestic football as well, but then, so do many European countries (including a few who have hosted the tournament in the past).

In any event, best of luck, Poland and Ukraine.

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