Why were Austria and Switzerland chosen to host Euro 2008?
Summary: Location, infrastructure and unity all helped Austria and Switzerland win the race to host Euro 2008
After one of the closest bidding competitions in the history of European football, UEFA finally confirmed that Austria and Switzerland would jointly host the Euro 2008 Championships, with an official announcement made from the organisation’s Geneva headquarters in December of 2002.
Alongside the eventual winners, six other bids had also made it through to the final stages. These included bids from Scotland-Ireland, Croatia-Bosnia-Herzegovina, Greece-Turkey and the Nordic nations of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden.
The Alpine neighbours came out on top for a number of reasons, with both their history and their future potential taken into account by the committee of judges
Strong football culture
Claims that neither Austria nor Switzerland are not genuine ‘football nation’s also fell on deaf ears. Of course, both countries are better known for their links with winter sports, with Austrian and Swiss skiers and snowboarders consistently among the best in the world. However, both have strong football pedigrees. Austria and Switzerland is no stranger to organising major tournaments, having hosted the World Cup back in 1954.
Plus, Austria only narrowly missed out on being named as the joint hosts for Euro 2004, with their bid alongside Hungary coming second for that tournament. Once they teamed up with their Alpine neighbours, they managed to go one better.
UEFA don’t like taking chances when it comes to choosing the hosts of the European Championships, meaning prospective hosts always need to reassure them they have the necessary infrastructure to hold one of the biggest sporting events on the planet.
And reassure them the Alpine nations certainly did. Not only did the two countries show that they had the necessary stadiums, but UEFA also revealed after they made the decision that they were similarly impressed by the rail links between host cities, with the number and quality hotels on offer and even the high standard of local policing being taken into account.
Two countries were truly united
One thing that helped set the Alpine countries’ bid apart from their rivals was the fact that they always stated that Euro 2008 would be a truly joint affair. That is, from the very first stages of their bid it was made clear that each nation would have four host cities, with Austria to host games in Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, Salzburg and Vienna and matches in Switzerland to be played in Basel, Berne, Geneva and Zurich.
In comparison, for some of the other joint bids it appeared to be the case that one of the partner countries would bear more of the burden (or share more of the spoils) than the other. For instance, with the Scotland-Ireland bid the plan was for Scotland to host three group stages, three quarter finals, one semi and the final while Ireland was to host just one group stage, along with one quarter final and one semi-final
Location, location, location
Not for nothing was the Alpine nations’ bid campaign called ‘Close to You’. The central theme of the initiative was to stress just how central both Switzerland and Austria are, meaning the games would be easily-accessible to all fans. While other prospective hosts could match the Austrians and the Swiss in many other areas (after all, the Scots have good stadiums and the Scandinavians certainly have excellent tourist facilities) nobody could match them in this regard.
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