The worst hosts ever?
|BettingExpert/Betfair Euro 2012 blog correspondent entry profile|
|Sam Crocker writes for a number of websites including French Football Weekly and Talking Baws.|
|Twitter : @SB_Crocker|
Beyond the basic advantages that a governing body classically uses to justify hosting a mega-event sporting tournament (economic advantages, excuse to improve local infrastructure, change how you as a country are perceived from the outside etc), there is also the return you get on having your team get automatic entry into the tournament. Indeed, this can play hugely in your favour in some cases, and home advantage has contributed to the success of a number of teams in history, with France 1998 and Argentina 1978 world cup winning sides springing to mind (as well as South Korea in 2002 and England in 1996 playing to above expectations on home turf). However, with Poland and Ukraine due to host the European Championships this summer, you have to question whether this will apply for them.
Poland and Ukraine are ranked 65th and 50th in the world respectively, and above them they can see such countries as Armenia, Wales and Gabon in the dizzy heights of the top 50, and of course will be the lowest ranked teams at the tournament this summer. Of course, we know as members of the British Isles that the FIFA rankings are not always what they seem, as proven by England’s location in the top 10 in the world for as long as most of us can remember, but this does not mean that they can be disregarded completely. There are a number of teams above them which are not well-known for their footballing heroism above them in the rankings, and many would struggle to name a less worthy host in terms of talent. Obviously there is South Africa from 2010’s world cup, but in this case they cannot be begrudged hosting the event based on talent compared to the economic advantages that is held for the country and what it meant as a tournament for Africa. And perhaps this also applies for Poland and Ukraine, as it will be the first tournament held in Eastern Europe since the 1976 European Championships in the former Yugoslavia and the first since the abolition of Communism in the region, so the positives are considerable in terms of the impact it will have for these countries to override the less quality teams they will put out. However, perhaps the problem lies with the number of countries hosting Euro 2012, and how this influences the overall quality of the competition.
As has become fashionable now, the dual-host model has been tried twice before – with Belgium and Netherlands in Euro 2002 and in Euro 2008 where Switzerland and Austria hosted the tournament, with this same idea being repeated again this year. And in general there isn’t really any issue with it, as it allows countries whose footballing infrastructure isn’t big enough to be able to host it on its own, as well as spreading the benefits between countries and building relationships. However, Netherlands and Belgium are both established nations in football terms, and thus would likely to be in the tournament anyway on their own merit through qualifying had they not been hosts. As for Euro 2008, you could argue that Austria were not a quality outfit at the time, and would not been worthy had they been forced to qualify, but Switzerland’s good pedigree in European football made up for that. Euro 2012 on the other hand brings two countries in who probably would not have qualified for the tournament if they were forced to go through qualifying, and the fact that there are two teams who would not normally been competing in the tournament is where the issue lies.
What most people forget is that the purpose of a tournament like this is to find the best team, but if the best teams aren’t in it, then that’s not always going to yield a true result. As a relatively small tournament compared to the World Cup for example, the European championships only has 16 teams competing in it, thus if 2 out of the 16 are arguably not worthy of qualification, then that makes up one eighth of the total contingent, which could impact in two ways. For one, there is the basic space that they have taken up by choosing to allowing dual hosts for the tournament, using an extra space that could have been given to a qualifier rather than a host, and thus provided a more competitive tournament overall. Furthermore, there is the overall effect on the quality of the tournament that this will have. No one wants to see whipping boys in international tournaments, as this of course disregards it in a number of ways, especially for a tournament that is meant to see the best countries in the world within the same area competing against one another. But there is a possibility that this Poland and Ukraine will provide relatively easy opponents for teams; particularly in the case of Poland, whose location in the “easy” group of Czech Republic, Russia and Greece means they may be able to get lucky and escape into the knock-out rounds, are thus likely to be an easy game for whoever gets them.
Then again, as the 2002 world cup showed, South Korea’s role as host really proved their credibility when it came to footballing talent as they ended up coming fourth in a legendary performance during the competition and inspired the promotion of Asian players into the European leagues considerably.
I don’t want to criticise or patronise Poland and Ukraine as nations because its clear what the benefits of the tournament can have for a nation, and I would much rather see it go there rather than to an established country who has done it all before and won’t receive the same benefits. Nor do I want to criticize the decision to allow these two to co-host the competition, as I think it was the best way to get new countries into the mix of hosts, and they shall no doubt provide excellent locations for the tournament to be held. I simply want to question the impact that it will have on the reflection of who wins the competition, as the poorer opponents or easy games in the knockout rounds may discredit the eventual winners, which perhaps may detriment the contest as a whole.
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I agree with you from the fan's perspective, and definitely wasn't disputing that side of it - I think it gives the perfect opportunity to see the wonderful country that is Poland. I've never been to Ukraine but it lets fans experience new places, which can only be a good thing (especially for English fans - get some culture in them!) I see what you mean, but I just thought that it limited the opportunity for a country who are likely to be much more successful that Poland or Ukraine are ever going to be. I'm not disputing the decision to let the two co-host it, but I'm just stating the issues that may arise from it. It's not a Qatar situation in terms of the culture of football I agree, but I think it is to a less extent in terms of the quality provided. I just think the ideal situation is that we have as many of the teams who would qualify on merit in the tournament as possible to make the best quality tournament.
I think that there are two main purposes of a tournament. Firstly, it's meant to be fun and interesting. Fun and interesting for the fans back home - we get to see new stadiums, a bit of culture of the host nations and so on. It's also meant to be fun for the fans who go to the games - for the travelling fans, who perhaps get to travel to somewhere new, - but also for the host nation's fans. Are only the fans of the 'big' nations allowed to enjoy hosting a tournament? Secondly, the main reason as you say, is to find the best team of the time. By allowing smaller nations to host a tournament (especially two smaller nations!) are we jeopardising that? Absolutely no! ALL of the top ten European nations are competing in Euro 2012. I also want to defend Poland and Ukraine as hosts - this is NOT a Qatar 2022 situation! Fans from these countries LOVE football. Poland have won the Olympics and have two silvers. They have been World Cup semifinalists as many times as England. As recently as 2007 they were 16th in the world. Ukraine were as high as 11th in their short history. Poland is the 20 in the UEFA coefficients, Ukraine is 9th. A Ukrainian side won the last ever UEFA Cup! Poland and Ukraine aren't giants, but they're far far far from being minnows.