Uefa confirmed last night that it would break with decades of tradition by holding the 2020 European Championship across the whole continent, opening the door for Wembley to host another major final.
Rather than staging the tournament in one country, as will happen with France in 2016, or two, as Poland and Ukraine did earlier this year, Uefa announced it would pursue plans to hold Euro 2020 in various cities across Europe. Uefa said the tournament would be a “Euro for Europe”.
“The Uefa 2020 final tournament will be staged across the continent in various major cities through Europe following a decision taken today,” said Uefa secretary general Gianni Infantino after a meeting of the executive committee.
There will be a bidding process between cities to host matches, starting early next year and ending early in 2014. All of the major stadiums of Europe will want to host the final but there was a sense of confidence and optimism at Wembley last night over plans, as the ground hopes to stage the European Championship final, as it did in its original form in 1996.
The fact that Wembley hosted the Champions League final in 2011 and will do so again next year is one of the main reasons for the feeling at Wembley that the national stadium is in such a strong position in the application process.
Wembley also staged the finals of the men’s and women’s football at the Olympic Games earlier this summer, the last major final between international teams to be played there.
While the competition to host the major games of Euro 2020 will be fierce, with obvious strong candidates in Spain, Italy and Germany, the recent visit of the Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, to St George’s Park with the Football Association chairman, David Bernstein, points to improved relations between the FA and the governing bodies based in continent Europe.
There have been fears that taking the tournament out of one or two countries would destroy their unique atmosphere, but Infantino insisted that would not be the case. When asked whether Uefa would ‘kill the party’, Infantino was adamant: “No, we think we are going to boost the party. Instead of a party in one country, we will have the biggest party ever organised across Europe.” While no decisions have been made on format or numbers, Infantino said that fans in “10, 12, 15” countries may be able to cheer on their home teams.
Infantino said that in economically difficult times, the costs of hosting a tournament could be spread between countries, forcing less investment in stadiums and infrastructure.
“The economic situation is such that you can’t expect countries to invest in sporting facilities that such an event requires,” he said.
“The fact that the Euro moves from 16 to 24 teams [as it will do in 2016] bears an additional burden on a country to host the event.”