The FIGC (Italian Football Federation) wanted to try again. After unexpectedly losing the race to host Euro 2012 to Poland and Ukraine, the Italians have asked UEFA for the right to stage the 2016 tournament. But, competing with rival bids from France and Turkey – after Sweden/Norway and Scotland/Wales didn’t get off the drawing board – will Italy be successful this time round?

UEFA will decide the winning bid on 27th May, 2010, after examining all the candidates’ dossiers.

The FIGC will have to battle against many of the same problems they encountered when bidding for Euro 2012. Amongst the largest of those are continuing struggles with violence, both inside and outside stadiums, and grounds which have not been modernised since the 1990 World Cup.

Just a few months ago, England boss Fabio Capello stated during a press conference that: “Italian football is a hostage of the ultras groups. They have connections with the clubs, they decide if the team should buy or sell players, and they usually control the merchandise and ticket market.” Capello spoke what many believed to be simple truths, but Giancarlo Abete, FIGC president was not amused. Abete felt that Capello had bitten the hand that once fed him, a typical expression to describe Italians who live abroad but criticise, “il BelPaese”.

Not too long after Capello’s words there was trouble in Udine, before Udinese were due to meet Napoli, as two people were stabbed outside the ground. In the next few weeks, supporters of Juventus, Napoli and Catania will not be allowed to travel to away games and all this adds to the impression that the country’s ultras deserve their fame in Europe for violence during continental matches. Not an ideal reputation for a nation looking to host Euro 2016.

Stadiums are certainly an issue too. Italian grounds are not particularly safe for supporters. During the weekend before Christmas, meetings between Fiorentina-Milan, Genoa-Bari and Udinese-Cagliari were called off because of the poor weather. However, the problem was not, as might be expected, a frozen pitch, but instead frozen stands. Whilst the playing surface was fine, the stands were not safe for supporters to attend. A similar situation occurred in mid-January at the game between Parma and Inter: Postponed for the same reason. The postponements of these games clearly show the situation of Italian football stadiums, and the negligence that affects all the clubs and municipalities in Italy: Practically none of the grounds in Italy are under the ownership of the teams.

The FIGC meanwhile have identified 12 cities to host games in Euro 2016: Bari, Cagliari, Cesena, Firenze, Milan, Napoli, Palermo, Parma, Roma, Turin, Udine and Verona. Prominent cities such as Genoa and Bologna missed out, to much surprise, and small towns such as Cesena and Parma being included also raised eyebrows. Nevertheless, if UEFA choose the Italian bid, then the FIGC must drop three cities and their respective grounds in the final reckoning.

In Italy, a country not renowned for the integrity of its political class, many people are concerned about the speculation surrounding the building or renovation of the stadiums. Italia ’90 was a good (or more appropriately bad) case which is often cited as an inappropriate use of public money.

However, it is a certainty that many Italian teams need to either rebuild their existing stadiums or construct new ones, but at the moment they simply don’t have the money to spend. In this regard they do need contributions from European or Italian institutions.

In the race to host Euro 2012, the Italian lobby indirectly accused Michel Platini of betraying their bid at the last moment, turning to outsiders Poland and Ukraine. Now president Abete and the other FIGC members are looking for a compensatory gesture from the UEFA president, perhaps overlooking the candidature of the French Federation, a direct competitor.

The Italian Federation submitted a ponderous dossier to UEFA, bound in four volumes and 1,000 pages long: It surely looks impressive in comparison to their competitors. Between 6th and 16th April, UEFA delegates will visit each of the candidate countries before making a final decision at the end of May.

After the failure of the Euro 2012 bid – which many had considered Italy’s to lose – the FIGC has had a further two years to prepare their bid, but alas, at present it looks like the lessons have not been learned.


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