It’s a sad day when you agree with Sepp Blatter!
He has had many strange ideas such as stopping goal keepers coming up for corners and free kicks, curbing goal celebrations and awarding World Cups to certain countries despite humanitarian issues, lack of footballing knowledge and dodgy betting, but for once I am actually inclined to agree with FIFA present Sepp Blatter. And what is this all about you ask (well probably not if you are football fans and have kept up with the news recently)? It is about Michel Plantini’s current idea to spread the European Championships across thirteen cities in thirteen different countries. If the number thirteen didn’t worry you then there are some views that may do. Whilst I know that UEFA president Platini wants to stamp his mark and make the tournament evolve with the times we live in, I feel the biggest losers will be the fans. Think about World Cup 2010 in Africa, what did that do to a nation, no, a whole continent. People from South Africa could very rarely see world-class football and as such the tournament was a boost the country needed and got locals further into the international game. Now if we spread that across the different nations then how would all these fans get there? Unless the countries that hosted the games play all their matches in their home stadium, but does that not give an unfair advantage to thirteen teams? In the old system, one or two countries had the home support and it meant something to them. If the cities chosen are based around the best football then are you just giving advantages to the best teams and most likely winners? What about those minnows? I have heard people say that some cities could be in countries that do not have the infrastructure or enough world-class stadiums to host a whole tournament. But these are teams that are unlikely to qualify. Does that mean there will be little support for the two teams actually playing in the stadium? Unless the stadium hosts all that team’s group games so it becomes a home away from home, but what happens if they get to the knockouts, do we have fans frantically travelling across Europe in the space of a few days? Well it would be like that if teams were not designated a home stadium. But if they are then the last group games could not be played at the same time and two teams would already know the result they needed. Again this is unfair. To me it is all a logistical nightmare. The other way is to give the thirteen hosts automatic spots in the final tournament, but then doesn’t that make a mockery of qualification. Also what if they are drawn against each other? Unless you make the draw after the groups and maybe pick from the four who will host then everyone gets a chance. But this could cause large distances between stadiums say if England and Turkey qualified and both hosted. Going back to the travel issue, what about our carbon footprints? Multiple planes, trains and automobiles will mean increased CO2 into the atmosphere. That is not very 21st century now is it!
Blatter’s main concern is the atmosphere, saying it will lack any soul and I would have to agree. The home supporters always have a second team and are aware that they will only see that standard of football on a regular basis in their home country once in a lifetime. Imagine all the Olympics, European Championships, Commonwealth Games and World Cups being more in style like the Champions League. For me it doesn’t have that special atmosphere, that party feeling, a nation coming together to celebrate the beautiful game and people from around the world travelling somewhere to not only witness world-class football but to gain an understanding of another culture. Whilst I like Plantini’s stance on general football governance and financial fair play, I do feel his idea of spreading the European Championships across Europe is flawed. It raises more questions than answers. If we look in detail at those questions, the clearest and most obvious answers don’t seem to cover up a multitude of issues. But as that famous phrase goes ‘you don’t know if you don’t try.’ Lets just hope that if it doesn’t work they don’t just keep trying till it does.