Belfast Telegraph

Revamped Windsor Park 'could host glamour Euro final'

By Steven Beacom

Imagine Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid or Juventus playing in a glamour game at Windsor Park.

Impossible, you say. Well, not according to Fifa Vice-President Jim Boyce, who knows a thing or two about how the corridors of power in European football operates.

Boyce has told the Belfast Telegraph that with Windsor Park being redeveloped the Irish FA should seriously consider bidding to stage the prestigious European Super Cup match, adding that they would have a reasonable chance of success.

The European Super Cup is a one-off game played every season between the Champions League winners and Europa League winners.

Originally it was a match-up of the European Cup winners and Cup Winners Cup victors and then when the latter tournament was abolished the Uefa Cup winners were involved.

In the 70s, 80s and most of the 90s it was a two-legged affair played at the home grounds of each side, but since 1998, including this year's convincing 4-1 win for Atletico Madrid over Chelsea, the fixture has been played in Monaco.

Next year though Prague will host the match, it will be at Cardiff City's stadium in 2014 and Tbilisi in Georgia in 2015.

Boyce says that the newly-refurbished Windsor Park won't have the capacity to bid to be part of the 2020 European Championship finals, set to be staged around various countries in the continent, but for a single game like the European Super Cup there are possibilities for Northern Ireland.

“To have a chance of being one of the hosts for the Euro 2020 finals, you must have a football stadium with a capacity of 30,000 and unfortunately that means we won't be in the running, unlike say England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland who all seem keen to get involved,” says Boyce.

“There is, however, an opportunity for Northern Ireland to stage a big European showpiece fixture and that is the Super Cup which is played between the Champions League winners and Europa League winners.

“The Super Cup next year is going to Prague in the Czech Republic, then the year after that it will be in Wales and the following year it will be in Georgia, so the next three years have already been allocated.

“What I would suggest is that the IFA should seriously consider looking into staging the Super Cup after that when all the renovation and upgrading of Windsor Park is completed. Yes, the capacity will only be 18,000 but that would be an acceptable figure if the stadium was adequate and suitable to stage such a glamour game.

“The Super Cup is a competition Uefa want to take around various countries. It remains an important game but it doesn't attract the massive crowds it once did.

“For example this year the match between Chelsea and Atletico Madrid was in Monaco and less than 15,000 attended, so if Windsor Park was redeveloped to a satisfactory standard it is a game in the future that I believe could come to Northern Ireland.”

Boyce, one of the most respected figures in Uefa and Fifa, adds that the Irish FA, of which he is an Honorary Life President, should not stop there, stating that there are other high-profile events that could come here.

“I feel the IFA should be looking at either staging a Uefa Congress or Fifa Congress some time in Northern Ireland because I believe we have the facilities to cope with that,” he added.

“If a proper bid was put forward we would have a chance because Uefa are taking their next Congress in 2014 to Kazakhstan.

“Uefa President Michel Platini said it's going there because they wouldn't be able to host a major tournament but it's good to give a country like that something of genuine importance.

“So, if Kazakhstan can hold that event, there is no reason why Northern Ireland couldn't do the same,” he adds.

The IFA must take note and take action. Calling Boyce, clearly a man in the know, for some advice on the bidding processes for these events would be a good starting point.

“I would certainly try and help the IFA in any way I could. I really do think it would be a huge boost if we could bring the European Super Cup, a Uefa Congress or Fifa Congress to Northern Ireland,” Boyce said.

Jim quick to back Uefa’s 2020 vision of moving tournament

By Steven Beacom

All smiles: Jim Boyce believes Michel Platini’s idea to host Euro 2020 across a number of different countries can work wellMICHEL Platini and his colleagues at Uefa created quite a stir and came in for some stinging criticism when it was announced earlier this month that the 2020 European Championship finals will be held in a number of cities across the continent.

Usually the tournament, held every four years, is hosted by one or two countries, but in eight years time several will stage fixtures, be it in the group or knockout stages.

Many commentators have stated that the idea is ludicrous and could see fans flying all over Europe at great expense to follow their nation instead of having one central base. It has also been suggested the tournament will not have a heartbeat with so many different countries involved.

Fifa Vice-President Jim Boyce says, though, that the Uefa Executive Committee's decision, supported by Uefa President Platini, has merit and might just work.

Former IFA President Boyce said: “I don't have a vote on the Uefa Executive Committees but I attend them as Vice President of Fifa and am there as an observer.

“It is worth pointing out that at the meeting when this plan was passed it was emphasised that it was purely a one off to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the tournament.”

Pressed about the criticisms of having a number of locations for Euro 2020, Boyce said: “I genuinely think it could be workable.

“A committee has been appointed to see how it will work but I don't think it will be as complicated as some have been making out.

“The idea behind it is that there are many countries across Europe who would never be able to stage the Euro finals or World Cup finals on their own and Michel's plan is to give those countries an opportunity to be part of a major tournament.”

Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland all want a piece of the action and will put their cases forward to stage games while the Football Association have already asked Wembley to be considered as a possible venue for the final.

Boyce, who was in Japan for the World Club Cup at the weekend and has just been appointed by Fifa to act as chairman of the World Cup under-20 committee, says: “Rather than the Euro 2012 finals when 16 teams were competing, in 2020 there will be 24 teams and six groups of four. This is a personal opinion but what I think might happen is that Uefa will pick six countries to host the group stages.

“In other words teams in the same group would be based in the same country and fans wouldn't have to fly all over Europe to follow their side.

“Then perhaps two more countries could host the quarter-finals and semi-finals and then a different country could stage the final, perhaps in a stadium with a capacity of 90,000.

“An alternative to that would be to have the quarter-finals in one country and the semi-finals and final in another but either way there is merit to the idea and critics should wait and see what Uefa come up with in terms of how it will work. I think they may be surprised.”

Belfast Telegraph


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