From Sweden to Turkey, from Portugal to Russia ... UEFA EURO 2020 will be a genuine European experience, and the tournament in seven years' time is now taking greater shape after a series of decisions by the UEFA Executive Committee at its meeting at the House of European Football in Nyon on Friday.
The "EURO for Europe", given the go-ahead by the Executive Committee in Lausanne in December, will be staged in 13 cities across Europe – a maximum one venue per country, meaning one stadium for each of the 13 packages that are available. Both semi-finals and the final will be played in one stadium; and each association can present up to two bids – one for the 12 'ordinary' packages and one for the semi-finals/final package.
Projected stadiums will be admitted in the bidding process. Required minimum net stadium capacities should be 70,000 for the semi-finals/final, 60,000 for the quarter-finals, 50,000 for the round of 16 and group matches; and in a move which opens up possible hosting opportunities for many more countries and cities, up to two exceptions would be allowed for stadiums of a net minimum capacity of 30,000 seats, limited to group matches and a round of 16 game.
Football fans are to be given full consideration. Allocating hosting teams to the tournament groups would also take travel distances into account, for example, and, where feasible, flights would not exceed two hours' duration between host cities. The objective is to allow easy access to travelling fans to watch the action and share in the EURO 2020 experience.
"The [UEFA] National Team Competitions Committee proposed to the Executive Committee that the [tournament] should be played throughout Europe, from north to south, from east to west," said UEFA President Michel Platini after Friday's meeting. "The Executive Committee ratified this proposal – the 53 associations could be candidates for the EURO in 2020.
"The fact that there can be two stadiums with a [minimum] capacity of 30,000 is going to raise the number of cities which are going to be interested by EURO," he added. "Perhaps in 2020, travelling will be different to how it is in 2013. We are going to try and find the means to help fans to travel."
Mr Platini also expressed the view that a country building a new stadium would be boosting its chances of staging EURO 2020 action.
"The fans can expect to see a fantastic European Championship," UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino told UEFA.com. "Not only the fans of one country can enjoy the EURO, but the fans of 13 countries – this is the first step towards the fans. Then, when it comes to the fans as well, the fact that the Executive Committee will choose 13 cities in 13 different countries – of course, there will be important cities. There will be capitals (...) of different countries, so the transportation between these cities will certainly also be easier."
The approval of bidding requirements and bid regulations will follow in March, with the bidding phase launched in April. Candidates will have to provide a formal bid confirmation in September, and bid dossiers are to be submitted next spring. The Executive Committee will select the host cities in September 2014.
"The bidding process is open to all national associations – the seating capacity [criteria] foresees two exceptions with stadia of 30,000, so it's open to everyone – and the idea is to cover the whole of Europe and have a fantastic atmosphere," Mr Infantino explained.
In other Executive Committee business, the ten venues for UEFA EURO 2016 in France were confirmed – Bordeaux, Lens, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Paris, Saint-Denis (Stade de France), Saint-Etienne and Toulouse. "There are no surprises, it is the same list which was already approved, and work is going on," said Mr Infantino of the eagerly anticipated tournament.
The Executive Committee also welcomed the solidarity shown by the 53 European FIFA member associations in their unanimous declaration on proposed amendments to the FIFA Statutes at the meeting of the associations' presidents and general secretaries in Nyon on Thursday.
"The [committee] has freely acknowledged this example of professionalism, of unity and maturity by the European associations in dealing with a sensitive topic in a very serious and responsible way," said Mr Infantino.
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