Guest Post: Euro 2008’s Underwhelming Co-Hosts

A fellow blogger, a fella who runs a site called Starting Eleven, contacted me about doing a post-hosting swap. That sounded like “Post Toasties” to me and who doesn’t like those? So I said, yeah, what the the hey?

He’ll be posting my item shortly – and I’ll link to that when it’s up. As for this space, his item is below, a tidy commentary on the competitive quandary of allowing two nations to co-host major soccer tournaments. I liked it plenty and hope all y’all like it as well. And, if you like it, pop over to Starting Eleven and enjoy; he’ll be churning out the content for you.

On with the show:

Soccer’s principal governing bodies, FIFA and UEFA, have fallen in love with the notion of co-hosts for their major championships. Blame UEFA because it was first with Belgium and the Netherlands hosting the 2000 Euro, but it didn’t take long for copycat FIFA to fall in line with the 2002 World Cup taking place in Japan and South Korea.

While it may be a noble gesture to allow two countries to experience big tournaments simultaneously, exposing both to more media attention and the opportunity for massive amounts of revenue, fans are left with a soul-less event. We’re left to suffer with an inferior tournament because of FIFA’s and UEFA’s transparent motives and decision to reward mediocrity.

Look no further than next summer’s Euro; Austria and Switzerland will co-host and also earned automatic qualification for the tournament. Under normal circumstances, neither nation would get in without paying for tickets. Austria has made one previous Euro, Switzerland three. Neither has ever finished in the top four, nor has either made it out of the initial group stage of the finals.

Yet there they’ll be next summer, occupying two spots normally reserved for deserving teams. And therein lies the problem with the concept of co-hosts. If 16, 24 or 32 teams are good enough to qualify for a tournament, and two of the spots are reserved for hosts with no business being in the competition, how does UEFA or FIFA look at Nos. 17, 25 or 33 with a straight face and tell them they don’t belong.

If UEFA’s logic, for example, is spreading the wealth and the experience of hosting the tournament, fair enough. But once the host nations are excused after three games, that’s really out the door. Right now, England, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Belgium, Norway and exciting Israel are ranked higher than both Austria and Switzerland, and any of them would have a better showing than Austria or Switzerland, yet they’re on the outside looking in because of the decision to have co-hosts.

Sadly, this is a concept that isn’t going away any time soon. Poland and Ukraine are on tap to host the 2012 Euro, and Portugal and Spain are expected to make a bid for the 2018 World Cup [why? Portugal hosted a great Euro on its own in 2004.]

It’s time for FIFA and UEFA to find the courage to turn away these bids. If a country doesn’t have the infrastructure to host the game’s biggest tournaments, than it just doesn’t deserve them. It is doubtful fans would complain about somewhat permanent host nations for the Euro, in a rotation between say, England, Italy, France, Portugal, Spain and Germany. Same goes for the World Cup: Any of those European nations, along with the U.S., Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, Japan, China and perhaps Australia.

To quote a funny guy: “Two of shit, is still shit.”

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