Jumat, 18 Mei 2012

Can the Celts host Euro 2020?

At first glance it did not look serious.


Two last-minute expressions of interest in hosting Euro 2020 were registered before the deadline to add to Turkey's existing one.

One came from Georgia and the other was a joint proposal from Eire, Scotland and Wales.

The Turkish government had been desperate for rivals to the Turkish FA's bid to emerge so UEFA lent on two groups to express an interest. 2020 is also Olympic year and Istanbul is in the running for the rings against Baku, Doha, Madrid and Tokyo.

The Ankara government would much prefer the Games to the Euros, so was dismayed when Germany pulled out of the Euro 2020 race, leaving Turkey as the sole bidder. The International Olympic Commission has made it clear no country can host both tournaments in one summer.


With 24 finalists involved, whichever host is chosen will have to provide ten up-to-date stadia, two holding a minimum of 50,000 seats, three at least 40,000 and four 30,000.

It is hard to see how Georgia (pop. 4.5 million), despite its growing economy, will be able to muster that many arenas, while its infrastructure surely also requires a miracle.

The tri-Celtic bid also looks a long shot, although not impossible, as a number of large and modern arenas with experience of hosting football already exist in those countries:

  1. Croke Park (Eire) 82,000
  2. Millennium Stadium (Wales) 74,000
  3. Murrayfield (Scotland)  67,000
  4. Celtic Park (Scotland) 60,000
  5. Hampden Park (Scotland) 52,000
  6. Aviva Stadium (Eire) 51,000
  7. Ibrox (Scotland) 51,000
These seven compare very favourably in terms of size and access, being based in Cardiff, Dublin, Edinburgh or Glasgow.

Wales has two other modern football stadia whose capacities could be increased without too much difficulty - Cardiff City Stadium (built 2009, 27,000 seats) and Swansea's Liberty Stadium (2005, 20,500).

Ireland's other football stadia are nothing to write home about, although it has a dozen Gaelic football stadia with capacities of 30,000 or more, but they are mostly standing venues, while the only all-seated stadia of sufficient size reside in tiny towns which would be too small to host Euro 2020.

In terms of access, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Wexford or Waterford would be the realistic candidates to have their arenas rebuilt.

Although giving out three automatic qualification spots is unprecedented, the transport connections are probably easier than between Poland and Ukraine, the hoteliers less likely to overcharge and the police more trustworthy.

More importantly, the presence of a competitor allows Istanbul to challenge for the Olympics in the final IOC vote in Buenos Aires in September 2013. The Euro 2020 decision is not until the following Spring, which allows Turkey the back-up of the European Championships.

Turkey is still the outstanding candidate for Euro 2020, having narrowly missed out on hosting Euro 2016 to France. As a  strategic geo-political bridge between the Islamic world and the West, the large nation on the edge of Europe is high on the politicians' list of priorities.

But should Istanbul get the nod for the summer games, the Euros could be heading back to the British Isles for the first time since England hosted 1996.

- Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile


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