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Dublin: 7°C Thursday 15 April 2021

Big plans: UEFA defends 24-team European Championship

It’ll be grand, said Andy Roxburgh of the tournament’s growth from 16 t0 24 teams.

Will Ireland's fans have more away days like Euro 2012 this summer.
Will Ireland's fans have more away days like Euro 2012 this summer.
Image: INPHO/James Crombie

UEFA’s CONTROVERSIAL DECISION to expand the European championships from 16 to 24 teams makes sense because the quality of the game is rising, its outgoing technical director Andy Roxburgh said today.

Roxburgh — who during his management career steered Scotland to the finals of Euro 1992, which involved just eight nations — underlined that the same debate raged back then about the supposed watering-down of the showcase tournament.

“That was the last of the eight-team tournaments. And of course everybody said at the time, ‘Oh, what will it be like now we’re doubling the numbers to 16 teams’,” he told reporters after a three-day meeting of European coaches in Warsaw.

“Well, the Euro that was played in England in 1996 with 16 teams was very good. So the fears weren’t founded. And all I would say here is that we’re now going to this increased number as standards in Europe are rising all the time,” he added.

Roxburgh — on the point of retiring from the UEFA post he had held since 1994 — said that football’s powers that be see clear benefits to adding eight more teams at Euro 2016 in France.

“Benefits first of all to allow more teams to experience that, because they think the standards are high enough to cope with that number of teams in the final. And clearly there’s the whole packaging, the marketing,” he said.

The quadrennial European championships are UEFA’s main income-driver, in particular from broadcast rights.

But with 53 nations making up UEFA’s membership, critics suggest it will be too easy for the undeserving to get under the wire, leading to poor-quality matches.

Roxburgh rejected that.

“If you ask I think nearly any coach, when they go to play in some of the so-called smaller countries now, they don’t look forward to doing it,” he said. ”Some of the small countries will never be Spain. But coach education and development, and player development, and all these things going on in Europe, all of that is helping to raise standards.

“I think European football at the moment is very healthy, even in some of the smaller countries, which are capable of springing a surprise.”

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