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UEFA picks UK-Ireland to host 2028 Euros, Italy-Turkey gets 2032

UEFA Euro announcement UEFA Euro announcement - The Canadian Press

NYON, Switzerland (AP) — The trend of reaching friendly agreements to pick hosts of the Olympics or major soccer tournaments without a contested vote continued in Europe on Tuesday.

European soccer body UEFA made winners of all seven of its member federations who were competing to be future hosts of the European Championship in 2028 and 2032. The four member nations of Britain will co-host with Ireland in 2028, and an unusual Italy-Turkey plan was picked for 2032.

Final approval from the UEFA executive committee appeared inevitable after former bid rivals Italy and Turkey united under one flag of convenience in July. That deal took Turkey out of the Euro 2028 contest, where the team of five neighboring UEFA member federations — England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Ireland — was long favored to win.

The seven members "whose dedication, hard work and commitment have been duly recognized” were praised in a written statement by UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin.

The UEFA decisions followed six days after another deal was revealed by FIFA to stage the 2030 World Cup in six countries on three continents. That arrangement added South American neighbors Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay to their former bid rival, the heavily favored Europe-led co-hosting plan of Spain and Portugal that this year added Morocco.

The 2030 deal allowed FIFA to fast-track opening the 2034 bidding contest reserved only for member federations from Asia and Oceania. That makes it look like a shoo-in for Saudi Arabia. FIFA is aiming to finalize both 2030 and 2034 World Cup decisions late next year.

The International Olympic Committee set the trend of double awards when it changed rules midway through the 2024 Summer Games bid campaign to pick the 2028 host also. That let Los Angeles be rewarded without the risk of losing the 2024 vote that Paris was expected to win.

The IOC has since ended contested votes — often at risk of bribery — for Olympic hosts in favor of exclusive talks with a preferred candidate. The new process let Brisbane, Australia, be fast-tracked as the 2032 Summer Games host.

In soccer, Turkey appeared likely to lose a vote for 2032 even amid doubts Italy could finish a massive construction project to build and upgrade the stadiums needed for a 24-team, 51-game tournament.

“The challenges are enormous,” Italian soccer federation president Gabriele Gravina said. “We’ve never had the courage to face them with full strength. So, Euro 2032 will be a great stimulus.”

The UEFA-brokered accord with Italy means Turkey finally will get to host a European Championship after several failed previous bids, including by one vote against France for Euro 2016.

Splitting the 2032 tournament between Italy and Turkey means each country need only provide five viable stadiums, making it easier on each co-host. That is despite UEFA bid rules stating that only neighboring member federations can propose co-hosting. Rome and Istanbul are separated by about 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) with flights across the Mediterranean Sea and Aegean Sea taking more than two hours.

Britain and Ireland were widely expected to get Euro 2028 when it was clear UEFA's preference was for Spain and Portugal to lead Europe's attempt to secure the 2030 World Cup.

“Today does help to vindicate that decision,” English Football Association CEO Mark Bullingham said Tuesday, describing its 2030 option as “at least a real long shot to win.”

Co-hosting by five UEFA members in 2028 and two in 2032 follows the radical 13-member project that was agreed on for Euro 2020. It was cut to 11 when the tournament was eventually played during the COVID-19 pandemic one year behind schedule.

The Euro 2020 final and semifinals were played at the 85,000-seat Wembley Stadium in London and the plan is for those three games to return in 2028.

The UEFA picks are not even the most scattered and logistically challenging chosen this month for a major soccer event. The FIFA-backed plan for the 2030 World Cup requires teams, fans and officials to make flights of about 11 hours from a single game in each of the three South American co-hosts.

All six 2030 hosts will get automatic entry to that World Cup, and Italy and Turkey both get direct places at Euro 2032. But UEFA will not offer five automatic places for the 2028 hosts. One option is putting all five into traditional qualifying and awarding automatic places to the two best records among the non-qualifiers.

The Euro 2028 bid plan has six stadiums in England, led by Wembley along with the club venues of Aston Villa, Manchester City, Newcastle, Tottenham and the under-construction new home of Everton in the dock area of Liverpool. The national stadiums of Ireland, Scotland and Wales will also be used, plus a planned new stadium in Belfast at the currently derelict Casement Park.

“We are assured that the (British) government will put the funding behind this to make it happen,” said Patrick Nelson, CEO of the Northern Irish soccer federation.

The project is set to cost at least 150 million pounds ($180 million).

Euro 2024, which will be held next year in Germany, is an increasingly rare example in modern soccer of a single host nation.

UEFA has targeted Euro 2024 and 2028 to be high-profit tournaments with revenues at each edition of at least 2 billion euros ($2.12 billion). UEFA is hoping to rebuild its cash reserves above 500 million euros ($528 million) after being depleted during the pandemic.

The men’s European Championship funds much of UEFA’s organizational costs and pays for development costs to 55 member federations.

UEFA expects the program, known as Hat Trick, to invest 935 million euros ($990 million) from 2024-28, paying members about double what they get from FIFA in each World Cup cycle.

Russia, the 2018 World Cup host, had applied to enter both European hosting races but was ruled ineligible by UEFA because of the invasion of Ukraine.


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