UEFA have rolled the dice, rocked the boat and put the cat amongst the pigeons with their plans for Euro 2020.
There will be no host county.
Euro 2020 will be the 60th anniversary of the European Championships and, instead of having the tournament in one or two host countries, games will be played in cities across Europe.
Speaking to the press, UEFA General Secretary, Gianni Infantino, said the decision would mean “Instead of having a party in one country, we'll have…the biggest party ever organised across Europe in the summer of 2020.”
A continent wide tournament it may be, a pan-European party may be slightly harder to pull off.
Part of the appeal of tournaments is wrapped up in the hosts. The 2010 World Cup was not a vintage tournament, but had the allure of the first African World Cup. Brazil in 2014 promises to be a festival of football. These may be World Cups, not Euros, but these tournaments feed off the culture, and the sporting success or failures of the hosts. A well organized competition it may end up being. A carnival of sport, it will struggle to be.
UEFA noted the economic strains of providing the necessary investment in stadiums and infrastructure would now not fall all on one nation. Despite this they have said this new format is a one off for 2020, and will increase the number of teams who qualify for the finals from 16 this summer, to 24 in four years time.
An entire tournament may be outside the budget constraints of many European countries at the moment, but this new structure aims to give countries and cities unable to host an entire tournament, or even a Champions League Final, the opportunity to get involved in the European Championships
“The chance for cities to host even a small part of European Championship a wonderful thing.” Said Infantino. However, are UEFA really going to turn down having games in Barcelona, Milan etc. for games in Latvia and Scotland? Not to mention the debate over who gets to host the final.
Only one member of the UEFA Executive committee voted against the plan, the member from Turkey, who had been hoping to host the tournament outright. Public reaction, on the other hand, has been much more mixed. Although to some extent that is to be expected with details thin on the ground.
Questions remain as to what would happen if, for example, Kiev won hosting rights, but Ukraine don’t qualify? How will they organise the groups and decide who gets to play at home? How many cities will be involved?
Partly UEFA don't want to give such a celebratory event to just one member state, partly they wanted something special to mark the event (with the tournament every four years, the 50th anniversary fell in a non tournament year—2010). Either way this decision has certainly got people talking.
Let the debate commence.