Why UEFA should choose Turkey

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Decision day is edging ever closer. The moment France, Italy and Turkey have been waiting for, writes Simon Peach. With the bid books scrutinised and dossiers dissected, all the trio can do now is cross their fingers and await the UEFA Executive Committee's verdict on its host for the 2016 European Championships. That announcement will be made in Geneva on Thursday 27 May, when we will find out whether European football's governing body is going to take what it thinks will be a safe bet with a Western European nation or take the competition to another new territory. Considering the strife that co–hosts Ukraine and Poland have caused in the build–up to the 2012 edition, you could not blame UEFA for taking an easy option. However, there is a strong case for UEFA taking a calculated gamble and plumping for Turkey.

Turkey deserve to be given a chance to prove it can cope with the demands of hosting EURO 2016. After an unsuccessful joint bid with Greece for EURO 2008 and another failed single bid for the 2012 event, the country will be hoping its renewed intentions for the European Championships will make it third time lucky. Orhan Gorbon, project leader of the Turkish bid, told The Sport Briefing earlier in the year that previous disappointments had strengthened the country's resolve. During that conversation he urged UEFA not to be "predictable" and allow Turkey to harness the power of football and make a true difference to a country that has never hosted the European Championships before. Both France and Italy have hosted it twice. Four years on from Turkey's latest setback, the nation has only slightly altered its bid by adding one more stadium and host city in order to cope with the growth to the largest European Championships yet. To many, the lack of invention may look lazy, but it merely highlights the confidence within the Turkish bid. A mass overhaul of the nation's stadia will be financed by the Turkish government to the tune of Eur920m, allowing six new stadia to be built in Ankara, Izmir, Bursa, Konya, Eskisehir and Antalya. Furthermore, Galatasaray SK's Turk Telekom Arena, the Kayseri Kadir Has Stadium and Atatürk Olympic Stadium will undergo substantial renovations. That financial investment alone puts Turkey's bid far ahead of its rivals, with Eur400m earmarked for stadium renovations in Italy while the French government has pledged a modest Eur150m towards stadium modernisation. Then you have to consider the potential legacies to each of the countries. Italian Football Federation (FIGC) president Giancarlo Abete highlighted EURO 2016 as "a historic opportunity to transform the quality, security and ambience of Italian stadia", but the fact that some venues have fallen into disrepair just 20 years after being redeveloped for the 1990 FIFA World Cup raises serious questions. So too does the need to improve arenas in France just 12 years after the country hosted the 1998 FIFA World Cup. However, as nice as stadium redevelopment and a one–month party for each of the three nations is, realistically the improvements to society and general infrastructure in Turkey far outweigh the Western nations' requirements. The tournament would leave a legacy that would last for generations in Turkey. In addition to facility investments, Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan has signed financial guarantees to plough Eur27bn into improving infrastructure over the next six years to enhance transportation, telecommunications, railways, airports, health, hotels and education. Whilst that money will be pumped in regardless of the bid's success, it is a shining example of national commitment to the event and a reflection of the recent economic growth in Turkey. The bid has the public's support too, with a recent poll showing that 88% of the general public are in favour of hosting the tournament. With a French bid meeting interrupted by disgruntled Paris Saint–Germain fans in mid–May 2010, and Italian fans continually marring matches with the violence that ruined the country's bid for the 2012 edition, the support from the Turkish public is a big asset. Furthermore, there would be, in Gorbon's words, "20m people who would die to be part of this tournament" as volunteers. Could their rivals boast this? But for all the new stadia, infrastructure and support, in a sporting sense a successful bid would see the introduction of 5, 000 new pitches, 150 football centres and 81 elite technical football training centres built in the medium term. The women's game will also enjoy vast benefits, with female football players expected to double in the country over the coming years. "The Euros would move Turkey forward in a very broad sense because it will bring a certain amount of integration into Europe and it will make sure Turkish people are better understood, " said Gorbon. "Turkish territory has always been the centrepiece for cultural interaction and this time it will happen to football. European people will get together and understand one another better in Turkey. Furthermore, we believe that it is a great motivation for young Turkish people to absorb more football as they're growing up that give them a certain kind of individual qualities, like fair play. It's very good for our young people plus it's a great opportunity to improve our sports facilities. We will have beautiful new stadia and also other facilities. There are really a lot of Turkish people dying to play football and in some places the facilities are not to European standard so it will also be a great opportunity at grassroots level. "Can the French and Italian project leaders claim such an opportunity for their nations? It is unlikely. If Turkey was awarded the event it would it would be a landmark decision, allowing the country to make its mark on European football properly for the first time. "It may be a brave decision but, on the other hand, it will be a very historic choice, " concluded Gorbon. After the shambolic preparations ahead of EURO 2012, it is asking a lot. But let's hope UEFA makes another brave and progressive decision on Thursday. About The Sport Briefing This story has been reproduced with the kind permission of The Sport Briefing. 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