It wasn't much of a surprise today that in a warehouse in Geneva, Switzerland, that the experimental brain child of UEFA President Michel Platini would give the honour of hosting the two semi-finals and the final of the 2020 EUROPEAN CHAMIONSHIPS to WEMBLEY STADIUM, outside London, and the pride and joy of the Football Association. www.thefa.com. I was there when England beat West Germany 4-2 in extra time in 1966 and again in 1996 to see Paul Gasgoign's marvellous goal against Scotland. England lost in the semi-finals to West Germany on penalty kicks 6-5 who went on to beat Czechoslovakia in the final.
18 others cities, scattered all over Europe, were in contention for other groups of matches with 6 bid cities facing disappointment. The only other contender, Munich's Allianz Arena, was withdrawn at the last minute by the DFB, Deutscher Fussball-Bund, with the realization that Wembley was the superior bid, and that the 2024 bid to host the championships all over Germany was a 'shoe in' since The FA would not bid if they were awarded the prize for 2020. www.uefa.com.
WEMBLEY is the darling of the UEFA hierachy and has had two Champions League Finals in 3 years, 2011, and 2013. It also has a capacity of over 90,000, 20,000 more that the Munich stadium, BUT PERHAPS OF MORE SIGNIFICANCE, offers 17,000 luxury seats which would suit the major sponsors who can afford them. FFF, The French Federation, did not submit a bid city, since they will have the first ever 24 team finals all to themselves in 2016 June 10-July 10. Those cities include Paris, St Denis, Lille, Lens, Bordeaux, Lyon, Toulouse, Marseilles, Nice, St. Etienne.
One consideration for 2020 was to include a number of cities in Eastern Europe, and others who have not had such an opportunity before with new democracies and new first class stadiums. ALL UEFA countries will have to qualify, but if they do so and are offered first round groups, then two of their three matches would be in their home stadium, so limiting expensive travel.
After Wembley's prize, the 4 cities and stadiums to host three group matches and one quarter final were chosen. MUNICH (Allianz Arena 72,000), BAKU (Olympic Stadium 68,700), ST. PETERSBURG (New Zenit Arena 69,000), ROME (Stadio Olimpico 72,700). They will also each host three group stage matches. The big surprise is Baku, Azerbaijan on the Caspian Sea. On the way from the airport to the city a few months ago I saw the new stadium under construction which will be the centre piece of the very first multi-sport EUROPA GAMES in 2015.
Eight lucky cities were then chosen to host three group matches and a round of 16 match: COPENHAGEN (Telia Parken 38,000), AMSTERDAM (Amsterdam Arena 55,000), BRUSSELS (new proposed stadium 55,000), BUDAPEST (new Ferenc Puskas Arena 68,000), DUBLIN,(Aviva Stadium 51,700), BUCHAREST (Arena Nacionali 55,000), BILBAO (San Marmes Arena 53,000), GLASGOW (Hampden Park 52,000).
The six cities that lost out are STOCKHOLM. CARDIFF, JERUSALEM, MINSK, SKOPJE, and SOFIA. BIG SURPRISE that Hampden Park, which received low marks on the commercial front from the UEFA bid committee with few luxury box seats, beat much bigger Millenium Stadiu,m which was ranked third in the committee's estimation. It received 21 votes to Hampden Park's 22 votes, and that STOCKHOLM'S Friends Arena was not chosen at all.