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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How Soccer Turned The Author Away From The NFL, and How The NFL Drove The Author To Soccer.

Since Center Holds It is really for the People (we love you all, we really do) we have a guest column tonight by Cliff, a Buffalonian just like yours truly. Let him know what you think in the comments section, and if you want to join attempt to join, be put through a rediculous hazing process at Center Holds It, email Ryan on the side of the page. Don’t act like you’re not impressed.


For a while I really tried to keep both football and soccer close to my sports enthusiast’s heart, but it’s all over now. When the American football analyst for Sky Sports the other day proclaimed the NFL to be “the best league in the world” I ended up laughing (as hard as the Sky Sports anchordude and anchorchick laughed after they’d cut to the pre-taped capsule NFL preview) because 1) that’s as laughable as proclaiming Super Bowl and World Series “WORLD CHAMPIONS!” and 2) because frankly the EPL, La Liga and most of your European and South American top flight soccer leagues mop the floor with the NFL hands down. Without the insane amount of hype the NFL generates and garners with the help of Madison Avenue to keep us Americans convinced that football is our national religion and that the NFL is our church.

 

The NFL is back, but to be honest I couldn’t care less.

 

You see it’s not just the onset of SOCCER MADNESS over the last few years that has cleaved me from the NFL, the American sports mainstream, and American conventional wisdom. Soccer madness hasn’t even turned me against the Buffalo Bills, my local hometown team- a team I’ve shared much pain and joy with lo these many years (ok, more pain than joy) as I still maintain some level of perverse civic pride in the Bills and an interest in their fate. Plus I have far too many, many fond memories of playing football on the big lawn in front of the local community center and Kennedy style at family gatherings to hate on the game of football, so it’s certainly not that.

 

It’s the unholy marriage of the NFL to Madison Avenue. It’s the god-awful hype. Sure all sports fans look forward to the start of the league season, especially partisans of specific teams, who run on two calendars: the Julian and the color coded team game schedule; it’s our thing… OUR thing. But Madison Avenue and the NFL go way further. It’s not just sports fans they want to amp up, it’s everybody else who they are working on with football related commercials on every channel (even FSC, owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns DirecTV- which brings you the NFL Sunday Ticket) and the celebrity fest song and dances that precede the start of the season and the Super Bowl. It’s all phony baloney designed to sell more commercial time, and that’s what the NFL is now all about. I mean, they actually keep the game play stopped every 10 minutes or so to get in a bunch of commercials during the TV broadcast, and worse they make you watch commercials when you’re at the stadium! NFL games have become worse than a Pavlovian experiment: you stand and cheer, then you stop and sit down, then in a few minutes you do it again, and again, and then you all sit and watch commercials on the Jumbotron. It’s all hype and commercials for the NFL nowadays, and it’s become an anathema to this sports fan.

 

Which is why I’m a soccer fan. I’m fully engaged for ninety plus minutes… and all of the commercials are on while I’m checking out the bog.* It’s all about the game.

 

Now let’s enjoy some Euro 2008 qualifiers and get ready for the start of the UEFA Champions League.**

 

 

* And let’s be honest, the concept of promotion and relegation elevates every game’s importance and how it’s played to a totally different level. I could go on for hours about this stuff but thanks to brevity I won’t.

 

** For my money the best league in the world.