Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Cardiff's Euro 2020 Bid : UEFA's Verdict

A decision is due to be made on 19th September as to whether Cardiff will
be amongst 12 cities hosting the 2020 UEFA European Football Championships.
(Pic : The Telegraph)
I was preparing a timeline of events leading to the Thursday's referendum, but it became so lumbering I decided to bin it and focus on something more productive instead; that something being the Football Association of Wales' (FAW) bid to host some matches of the 2020 European Championships at Cardiff's 74,500 capacity Millennium Stadium.

Back in 2012, UEFA decided that instead of being hosted by a single country, or joint bid, Euro 2020 would be hosted by cities across Europe.

The shortlist has been whittled down to 19 potential host cities, with two bidding packages – one for group games and early knock-out rounds ("standard package"), another to host the semi-finals and final ("finals package"). Only England's Wembley Stadium and Germany's Allianz Arena in Munich are bidding to host the finals. Wales has bid for a standard package.

Last week, UEFA released their evaluation report on the host cities – including Cardiff (pdf). The host cities will be announced on Friday (19th September).

Now it's worth looking at what UEFA said about Cardiff's bid, as it underlines some major problems facing the city, in addition to some key strengths.

The Good News

Cardiff has experience of hosting major football matches,
and the facilities available are of a high standard.
(Pic : The Independent)
  • The legacy and social responsibility criteria are said to have been met to a "very high standard", while political and footballs structures are said to be "sound".
  • Safety and crowd control measures are more than sufficient and of good quality.
  • There's a very good ratio of concessions and toilet facilities per spectator, and provision for disabled spectators "exceeds UEFA's guidelines".
  • Pitch size, ground-keeping, dressing room and official meeting room etc. requirements are fully-met.
  • All broadcasting and media requirements are met and well catered for.
  • The stadium is well-connected to, and well-served by, public transport, while last-kilometre accessibility is "comfortably ensured".
  • Airport capacity in Cardiff and the surrounding area should be enough to handle supporter requirements.
  • The Welsh Government have guaranteed "the availability of sufficient accommodation" for supporters (it's unclear what precisely these assurances are).
  • Training facilities and hotels for teams are "high quality" though some temporary installations may be required.
  • There's apparently an "interesting proposal" for the fan zone (inside Cardiff Castle is my guess), and Cardiff has experience at hosting major international events.
  • There's plenty of advertising and commercial space.
The Bad News
Once again, poor international connections and lack of high-end
hospitality facilities conspire to break wind in Cardiff's face.
(Pic : iandicksontravel.com)
  • Despite the large capacity, the Millennium Stadium only partly meets UEFA's guidelines due to a lack of parking facilities nearby.
  • Hospitality requirements are only partly met, as there's not enough space for corporate sponsors, and there are too few executive boxes.
  • There's not enough space around the stadium for temporary facilities and UEFA say "alternative solutions will need to be found".
  • Cardiff will probably have to rely on Bristol, Birmingham and Heathrow airports for international access.
  • There's not enough hotel accommodation in Cardiff itself, and alternative accommodation will need to be provided for supporters (i.e university dormitories, guest houses). The number of hotel rooms for officials just about meets UEFA's requirements.
What's next?
Dublin and Glasgow are likely to be Cardiff's main rivals, and apart
from stadium size, their bids are much stronger.
(Pic : avivastadium.ie)
We have the stadium, but we don't seem have all of the pieces in place in terms of transport and infrastructure.

I'd be surprised if the bids from Azerbaijan, Macedonia, Belarus, Russia and Israel succeed. That leaves fourteen bids left for the final twelve slots, including Wales.

Wembley is almost certainly going to be selected if rumours of a quid-pro-quo deal between the English and German FAs are true; so one of the other three bids from Great Britain and Ireland will likely be paired with Wembley for geographical reasons.

Wales' direct rivals will, therefore, be Glasgow (Hampden Park) and Dublin (Aviva Stadium). Hampden Park has hosted a Champions League final, while Aviva Stadium hosted the 2011 Europa League final.

The Millennium Stadium is the best stadium in Europe to have never hosted a major European football final, and that goes in Cardiff's favour. It's also the closest stadium to Wembley, which would reduce travel times for teams and sponsors - not that UEFA care about fans traipsing around the continent.

The factors going against Cardiff are that Glasgow and Dublin have superior airports, more hotel beds and far greater international connections. These are long-standing problems in Wales that have been brought up lots of times without any real action by the Welsh Government or local authorities.

Should Cardiff fail this time around, you would expect the FAW to submit a bid for a Champions League final in the next couple of years. Until these big issues are solved, however, we'll keep hearing the same reasons to turn down hosting rights for major events again and again and again.

UPDATE 19/09/14 : Cardiff's bid was unsuccessful. Against my expectations, both Glasgow and Dublin will host group and last-16 games, while Wembley has been selected to host the final and semi-finals. Even Azerbaijan's capital, Baku, was chosen ahead of Cardiff.


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