Platini: The fans are a ‘priority’

UEFA President Michel Platini says new Euro format has fans in mind and denies suggesting changes to Europa League.

Platini is under pressure after criticism directed at new Euro project and struggling Europa League [AFP]

UEFA President Michel Platini promises to make fans a priority when deciding how to stage the 2020 European Championship in several countries across the continent.

Platini acknowledged on Friday that the project needs an ‘intelligent solution” to create a 51-match schedule that avoids ‘chasing fans all over Europe” to watch their teams.

“We can’t have England fans going to Lisbon and Kazakhstan and then somewhere else,” Platini said at a media briefing the day after his executive committee opted for the radical multinational plan.

Platini said UEFA recognised there was a problem when only ’50 French and 70 Spaniards’ came to some Euro 2012 matches.

“It was difficult to go to Poland and Ukraine,” the France great said.

“Now the Euro is going toward the fans.”

Platini revealed that UEFA’s official fan liaison partner, Football Supporters Europe, had been skeptical about the costs and time burden potentially being heaped on fans.

“They were against it originally but we told them we would help them as much as we can,” he said.

‘Very democratic’

While Platini has committed UEFA to revolution in its signature national team competition, he sought stability for its club events – and rejected recent reports that he wanted to kill off the Europa League in favour of an expanded Champions League.

“I said nothing of the sort,” he said, insisting his comments that a consultation was ongoing had been twisted.

“I’m a very democratic president. I don’t decide everything.”

Platini stressed that democracy is behind the Euro 2020 plan, saying 52 of 53 member nations backed it. The opposition came from Turkey, which had been favored to host the 24-team tournament alone and even had Platini’s support earlier this year.

“It was a great Euro (in Poland and Ukraine) but it was very expensive, almost as expensive as the Olympic Games”

UEFA President Michel Platini

UEFA aims to choose host cities in the spring of 2014, and about 40 countries appear to be realistic bid candidates. Some smaller Eastern European countries are expected to bid with plans for new national stadiums of near 40,000 capacity.

“We have a blank sheet in front of us,” Platini said.

“`We never went into the details, we never discussed a number of cities” during recent meetings with UEFA members.

Platini acknowledged UEFA had a ‘huge’ workload, having avoided the easier option of choosing a wealthy football nation -‘the usual suspects,’ he said – to take on the hosting costs during an economic crisis across Europe. France will host the expanded 24-team event in 2016.

“It was a great Euro (in Poland and Ukraine) but it was very expensive, almost as expensive as the Olympic Games,” he said.

Still, consideration for fans was ‘the first fundamental idea’ behind his original vision of the 12-13 nation hosting concept.

“The fans won’t have to travel but we’re taking the matches to the supporters in quite a number of countries,” Platini said.

Source: AP

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