UEFA seeks Euro 2032 bids, abandons Belarus as Under-19 host

GENEVA (AP) – UEFA opened the auction for the 2032 European Championship on Thursday, with the aim of making a selection at the same time as it chooses the host of Euro 2028.

As UEFA looks to add hosts for its iconic national teams tournament, it will consider pulling a women’s tournament from Belarus amid ongoing unrest under authoritarian leadership by Alexander Lukashenko.

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin has acknowledged that “we will not play” in Belarus if the 2025 Under-19 Euro is to take place next year.

UEFA is in a better position with the acceleration of the Euro 2032 bidding competition running alongside that of 2028. Bidders must choose “one or the other” option to target before the deadline of March, Ceferin said in an online press conference after an executive committee meeting.

The Euro 2028 bid schedule was announced two months ago with a host who will be chosen in September 2023.

Italy, Russia and Turkey were widely expected to participate in Euro 2028 to host the tournament alone.

The addition of the 2032 tournament could be tempting for a country or a joint bid that currently wants to be Europe’s preferred contender in the FIFA competition to choose a host for the 2030 World Cup.

A Spain-Portugal bid and a British and Irish bid combined have long been seen as UEFA’s best options. Ceferin has repeatedly said that Europe will only offer one to FIFA to avoid dividing its support.

EURO 2032

The staging of Euro 2032 is unexpectedly played out early on, even when the size of future editions of the tournament is unclear.

UEFA said in October that the current 24-team format, which will remain in place for Euro 2024 in Germany, is only tentative for future bids and may change.

The bid timeline could also change, Ceferin said on Thursday, depending on the number of UEFA’s 55 member federations that expressed interest in March.

UEFA has speeded up the host selection process as FIFA strives to double the number of Men’s World Cups every two years instead of four – a proposal that would reduce continental tournaments like the Euro in the crowded world calendar of national team matches.

WORLD CUP DEBATE

European and South American football leaders have strongly opposed the proposed biennial FIFA World Cup and have warned against a boycott of their teams.

The group of 55 UEFA members and 10 South American nations will be among the 211 FIFA member federations invited on Monday to the debate of the world football body on its ideas for competitions and calendars.

FIFA had once hoped that the online meeting it would host in Doha, Qatar, could lead to a vote on approving the biennial Men’s and Women’s World Cups.

The goal is now less clear and Ceferin was skeptical Thursday about what will be achieved next week.

“We don’t have a particular strategy,” said the UEFA president when asked what compromises could be offered. “The only thing we know is that he’s called ‘Future of Football’ which can mean a lot and mean nothing.”

BELARUS ISSUE

Ceferin acknowledged UEFA’s concerns over the trip to Belarus, which was shaken by Lukashenko’s disputed re-election 16 months ago.

“We know that the current situation is not good in Belarus,” said Ceferin, suggesting that UEFA would not go if the women’s youth tournament takes place next year, but has time to assess possible changes in the former Soviet republic.

“We wouldn’t play if we were in a rush. When the time comes, we will make the decision, ”he said.

Belarus was due to host the women’s event this year before it was canceled like many other youth football tournaments due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

UEFA decided in April to postpone Belarus’ turn to 2025, which has been criticized by activists who have warned sports organizations against athletes targeted by the Lukashenko regime.

The same activists had urged the International Olympic Committee to take stronger action against Belarusian officials ahead of the Tokyo Olympics this year, where the team’s treatment of sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya has become a global humanitarian problem.

CLUB EMERGENCY FUND

UEFA has confirmed it is working with US bank Citi to set up a multibillion-dollar relief fund for European clubs who have lost income due to the pandemic.

The fund is expected to allow clubs to use their future UEFA Champions League prizes and other European club competitions as loan collateral.

“Clubs will initially be offered the option to restructure existing transfer debts for longer payment periods,” UEFA said, adding that the fund could start operating later this season.

VACCINE PROGRAM

A UEFA promotional video featuring doctors will encourage players to get vaccinated.

“We have to be smart. People are not stupid, people understand when you explain nicely, ”said Ceferin, who has been vaccinated.

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