Euro 2012 – Ukraine and Poland

February 4, 2008

The venue for the Euro 2012 final?

Filed under: Poland,Ukraine — Ivan @ 5:24 am

THE SFA chief executive, Gordon Smith, will put Scotland’s name forward to host the 2012 European Championships if Uefa strip Poland and Ukraine of the tournament. The eastern European countries have fallen well behind in their preparations, and unless there is substantial progress over the next five months alternative hosts will be sought for the championship.

The warning to Poland and Ukraine was issued at last week’s Uefa Congress in Zagreb, and follows an independent report compiled by the former director general of the 1998 World Cup, Jacques Lambert. It concluded that no real progress has been made since last April, when the joint bid won the vote to stage Euro 2012 ahead of Italy.

Both Uefa president Michel Platini and chief executive David Taylor have stressed that time is now of the essence. The problems lie far deeper than just stadia, with roads, railways, airports and hotels needing massive upgrading and investment to meet the requirements of a major championship. So far there has been scant evidence that these logistical difficulties can be overcome.

Platini and Taylor stopped short of an outright ultimatum in Zagreb, and indeed both – aware of the embarrassment to Uefa if the championships had to be moved – have pledged to help Poland and Ukraine find solutions. But this year’s tournament in Austria and Switzerland will be the deadline, with Platini admitting that the next few months will be crucial.

Uefa’s director of communications William Gallard told the Sunday Herald that Euro 2012 would not automatically pass on to Italy – who lost out in their bid – if Poland and Ukraine can’t meet their obligations. “If that was the case, we would have to take a completely fresh look at the situation,” he said. Smith, who attended the congress in Zagreb, stated: “If Poland and Ukraine pulled out we would put Scotland forward and say we wanted to be considered for it. In the meantime we’d speak to the Scottish government and try to get a feasibility study done as to the costs and what’s required in terms of stadium upgrades.”

Last night a government spokesman promised support. “If the SFA chose to investigate the possibility of staging the tournament and decided to apply to host it, it would have our full backing,” he said.

First minister Alex Salmond has already said there is “absolutely no reason” why Scotland could not bid for the championships in 2016. But by then Uefa may have made a decision to increase the number of finalists to 20 or even 24, taking the tournament beyond Scotland’s resources. 2012, if it became available, could be Scotland’s last chance to stage the event.

The timing would also be convenient for the SFA, as the Olympics will be held in London that year. The association is resisting pressure to contribute to a British team in 2012, but public interest in what is essentially an under-23 Olympic competition would pale in comparison to a European Championships being held in Scotland.

“We’ve had a lot of encouragement from the government, who’ve said that if we went for a European Championship they would be very supportive,” continued Smith. “They would have to be, because of the financial work required. We would need to get more stadiums up to specification – at Pittodrie, Dundee and Edinburgh.”

Taylor, the former SFA chief executive who suffered some bruising as a result of Scotland’s failed bid – with the Republic of Ireland – to land Euro 2008, said of the Poland and Ukraine bid: “There has been some progress, but it needs to be accelerated. Over the next six months we need to see major steps forward, and there will be close monitoring by Uefa of the situation in that period of time.”

Platini blamed political instability in Poland and continued from page one Ukrainen – both countries elected new governments in November – for the delays.

“There can be no doubt that the launch of investment-intensive projects such as stadiums, airports and motorways has suffered,” he pointed out.

“I have the distinct feeling that the next four to six months will be crucial in order to prevent any further slippage and to protect the global credibility of the Euro project itself.”

The income from European Championships is distributed to the continent’s national associations, which will force Uefa’s hand to look at alternatives if substantial progress is not made between now and July. While most of the tournament’s revenue comes from television rights and sponsorship, rather than ticket sales, the image of the championships would suffer if the facilities, including transportation, are not up to the desired level.

Between them, Poland and Ukraine have to build or modernise 10 stadia and over 100 hotels, enlarge airports and upgrade thousands of miles of roads and railways. In addition to political uncertainty and lack of finance, both nations have had to contend with tens of thousands of workers leaving to find employment in western Europe.

According to Uefa communications chief Gallard, only two of the 2012 stadia, at Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk, are nearing completion. Both are in Ukraine, and have been funded by oligarchs.

“The others have to be thoroughly renovated or built from scratch,” reported Gallard. “That is one of the issues. The other problem is railways, highways and airports.

“Then there is a separate problem of hotels, which is a matter of private investment.”

The president of the Polish FA, Michal Listkiewicz, said last week that it would not be possible to complete some of the stadia in his country by the mid-2010 deadline. He added: “There is no reason to panic, and we have asked the soccer body (Uefa) to extend the deadline by six to eight months.”

Hryhory Surkis, the president of Ukraine’s FA, said: “It is true that we have lost nine months and everyone knows why – our authorities have proved slow-moving amid all the circumstances. But the time-out is over. There can be no more excuses.”

But even if the stadia are completed, the infrastructure problems could prove insurmountable. The roads and railways belong to the Soviet era, and unlike some of the football grounds there will be no private money to finance their upgrading.

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