UEFA facing Euro 2016 dilemma

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BERNE - UEFA decide on Friday the host nation for the 2016 European Championship with a clear choice between the tried and tested in Italy or France against the apparently more risky option of Turkey.

The smart money looked to be on the latter two following the lack-lustre campaign of world champions Italy which has left many of the football-mad country not even aware of their bid.

Many of the 16-man executive committee which will make the decision would surely love to hand Turkey their first taste of hosting a major international tournament but will be given pause for thought by the example of 2012 hosts Poland and Ukraine.

Even as UEFA meet in a Geneva hotel, cash-strapped Ukraine have still not convinced European football's governing body that it will have the stadiums or infrastructure ready to hold the sport's second biggest event in two years' time.

"The voices I have been hearing here suggest it'll be down to a straight choice between the more conservative option in France and, shall we say, a more interesting bid in Turkey," said a highly placed UEFA source who asked not to be named.

"Having said that, they will think hard before awarding it to Turkey given what's gone on for the 2012 Championship. Poland and Ukraine offered the most innovative bid then.

"It is fair to say, though, that Turkey does not have the money troubles that Ukraine has had, for example."

RARE STEP

UEFA has taken the rare step ahead of the vote of being fairly critical of the Italian bid in a report on the merits of the three bids.

This said that Italian organisers had overestimated ticket revenues, criticised ticket prices as being too high, expressed concern over the stadium projects and said transportation plans had been poorly presented.

Not that the rival campaigns were without concerns for UEFA. The report focused on France's reputation for strikes and Turkey's need to complete ambitious transport improvements were also featured.

Turkish fans' reputation for sporadic outbreaks of violence - hardly unknown in Italy either - will also be taken into account.

France and Turkey, however, both scored high on the legacy rating, which is considered a key element in any bid to host a major sporting event.

"The long-term benefits have been elaborated very precisely and a very good long-term legacy would seem to be generated by Euro 2016," the report said of France and Turkey.

For Turkey, the report added: "The first-time effect, the passionate people and national pride would help create extra enthusiasm."

However, in Italy's case, it said: "The legacy concepts presented are very generic, especially the planned infrastructure projects, some of which do not appear to be linked to the event itself."

The tournament will feature 24 teams for the first time, the number having been controversially raised from the current 16 to feature more of UEFA's 53 affiliated associations.

UEFA's 16-man executive committee - minus president Michel Platini (France), Senes Erzik (Turkey) and Giancarlo Abete (Italy) - will vote on the winners after each country has made a 30-minute presentation.

There will be two rounds of voting with the bid which gets the fewest votes being eliminated at the first hurdle.

On the day before the decision, UEFA's executive committee will also meet to rubber-stamp the so-called Financial Fair Plan, which will only allow clubs to take part in European competitions if their expenditures do not exceed their generated revenues.

The concept was agreed by UEFA last September and, since then, a panel led by former Belgium prime minister Jean-Luc Dehaene has been working on the practicalities of the plan, due to be implemented in 2012/13.

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