Turkey offers new markets for Euro 2016

ISTANBUL - Turkey's fast-growing economy and young population would inject energy and provide new markets for European football if it were to host the Euro 2016 football championships, its bid manager told Reuters.

Turkey is up against France and Italy, both of which have hosted European championships and two World Cups each, as they prepare for UEFA's announcement of the host in Geneva on May 28.

Turkey, applying for a third time, has never hosted a major football tournament and points to its reputation for hospitality, its location between East and West and its Muslim identity as contributing to UEFA's mission to integrate cultures.

It is also an economy which, while hit by global economic turmoil last year, has been growing some 6 percent annually since a 2001 financial crisis.

"The growing economy is very important because you need some energy. You need some energy for Europe, for European football," its Euro 2016 bid manager Orhan Gorbon said in an interview.

Turkey's plans would involve major investment in the Muslim, secular country, which is seeking European Union membership and which has a population of 73 million.

"We love football, but on the other hand our facilities are rather old and this is a reality," he said.

According to its bid proposal Turkey would build six new stadiums in Ankara, Izmir, Bursa, Konya, Antalya and Eskisehir, and renovate a stadium in Kayseri.

Istanbul's Olympic Stadium will be renovated and the new Galatasaray stadium, under construction, will also be used.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, an avid footballer in his youth, has given his full backing to the bid, pledging almost 1 billion euros of funding.


Gorbon said the energy of the country's youth would help deliver the tournament. He noted that half of the population is younger than 30 years old and 26 percent younger than 14.

"It is a very young market and that is what you want. You want young people to fall in love with football, to absorb fair play, to absorb respect," said Gorbon, who is also deputy general secretary of the Turkish Football Federation.

UEFA has said more than 100 criteria, from stadiums and accommodation to legal matters would be examined in considering where to hold the tournament.

Massive infrastructure investment would have to be made.

UEFA's bid evaluation report said building seven new stadiums was a challenging aspect of the bid and attendance figures would need to be raised in the short-term to ensure profitable stadium operations.

It said new transport links would need to be delivered, requiring multi-billion dollar investment, while the accommodation situation of four of the Turkish cities was critical.

It will be the first European Championship to feature 24 teams, eight more than will compete in 2012 when Poland and Ukraine co-host the event.

"I would call it a historical decision. If we win this bid ... I think it will be remembered that European football gained a lot of assets, a great legacy, a great future," Gorbon said.

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