UEFA declines another venture into the unknown

GENEVA - European soccer's governing UEFA declined the chance of another venture into the unknown when it chose France ahead of Turkey as hosts of Euro 2016.

In doing so, UEFA broke the recent trend of taking major sporting events to venues considered adventurous.

The decision was seen as a safe bet after delays and problems in Euro 2012 hosts Poland and Ukraine and worries over slow progress in Brazil, who are staging the 2014 World Cup.

"France was maybe the safer option because a lot of things are already there, in Turkey a lot of things would have had to be done with all the commitments and guarantees," UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino told Reuters.

However, he played down similarities between Euro 2012 and Turkey's 2016 bid after the French won the final round of voting 7-6 on Friday.

"The bid of Turkey was different to the situation we are experiencing in Poland and Ukraine. If you look at the last few years in Turkey and you look at the future potential development... I don't think this had played a major role."

He added: "You can't say what really made the difference, we had really three extremely strong bids."

UEFA executive committee member Theo Zwanziger said France had the benefit of having staged big tournaments in the past, most recently the 1998 World Cup.

"With 24 teams for the first time, I think the executive committee wanted to choose a host for 2016 which had already shown that it could stage a big tournament," Zwanziger told Reuters.

"It's a big challenge. We've seen how difficult it is in a country like Ukraine to turn hopes and wishes into reality and that could have given France the impact."

He added: There was a huge respect among my colleagues for the Turkish bid. I hope the Turkish federation doesn't see this decision as being directed against them."

"I hope they will bid again as the infrastructure in Turkey is growing."


Major sporting events will enter largely uncharted territory over the next few years starting with next month's World Cup in South Africa, the first on the continent.

The following World Cup in 2014 will be in Brazil which will also stage the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

In between, Poland and Ukraine jointly host Euro 2012. Matches at the tournament are scheduled to be held in four Polish and four Ukrainian venues but economic troubles, a severe winter and political tensions have exacerbated delays in Ukraine's preparations for the 16-nation tournament.

FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke has also expressed frustration at the slow progress in Brazil for the World Cup.

Turkey, who also bid unsuccessfully for the 2008 and 2012 European championships, angrily rejected any suggestion they represented a risk.

"I am totally against this statement. Losing is one thing but it is an underestimation of Turkey to say it was not capable of hosting a larger tournament, or it was to do with Ukraine," Turkey's Euro 2016 bid manager Orhan Gorbon told Reuters in Istanbul by telephone.

"I don't understand why France should be seen as the safe option.

"I am also against any comparison of Turkey with Ukraine. Turkey also bid to host Euro 2012, the old bid documents are with UEFA and you can see how different they are.

"There is no reason for this decision, perhaps it is simply that people feel closer to France."

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