UEFA members back multi-host Euro 2020 plan

GRAHAM DUNBAR AP Sports Writer Published:

NYON, Switzerland (AP) -- Football leaders from across Europe have told UEFA they want the 2020 European Championship to be organized in up to 13 host countries.

UEFA's executive committee meets Thursday and could agree in principle to support President Michel Platini's multi-nation hosting plan, which he floated during this year's European Championship.

Germany football association president Wolfgang Niersbach told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the idea has been supported during recent consultation meetings with UEFA's 53 member countries.

"This is the general trend around these meetings," Niersbach said at UEFA headquarters. "That UEFA should do it as an exception on the occasion of celebrating the 60th birthday of the European Championship."

Platini also said in June that he wanted to ease the financial and logistical demands on one or two host countries of the expected 24-nation, 51-match tournament -- given difficult time for European economies.

The UEFA leader's proposal has even won support from Georgia, which was one of the few likely candidates -- in a joint bid with Azerbaijan -- if UEFA held a traditional hosting contest for Euro 2020.

"I think it's an interesting idea for Georgia," its football president Domenti Sichinava told AP through a translator. "We had a few meetings around Europe and many countries are supporting this idea."

With the tournament divided into six groups of four teams, one idea for hosting a multinational event would be for each group to stage its matches in two cities. Ideally, those two cities would be relatively close to each other, so as to limit travel demands on teams and fans alike.

With 12 knockout matches scheduled in the second round and quarterfinals combined, each host could get one, to complete its four-match allocation. The action could then shift to a single host which would stage the semifinals and final, probably over a five-day period.

Georgia would be prepared to share a group with Azerbaijan, or other near neighbors such as Belarus, Russia or Turkey, said Sichinava.

One attraction of the multinational idea would be to include countries which could never hope to host a major championship alone.

"We feel that a lot of small countries should have a chance," said Netherlands official Harry Been, who was chief executive of the Netherlands-Belgium bid to host the 2018 World Cup.

"Romania is a good example. They have built a new, big stadium and they will never get a tournament like that by themselves," Been said.

Been acknowledged that countries which recently hosted a Euro tournament, including his own, could be asked to stand aside to give other countries a chance.

"But we think we can offer some possibilities. In Rotterdam, they need a new stadium and it could be an incentive for them" to be a Euro 2020 host city, he said.

Niersbach also highlighted Romania as a strong candidate, hosting matches in the National Arena in Bucharest which housed 52,000 fans at the Europa League final last May.

The German official suggested that UEFA's ruling board could request more detailed studies on how to implement Platini's idea.

UEFA's National Teams Competitions Committee, which includes Niersbach and Been, is one potential forum to investigate options for seeking host bidders, and how to structure the final tournament.