European soccer's governing body is meeting to debate if the 2012 European Championships can really be held in Poland and Ukraine. Even co-host Poland has expressed doubts about its feasibility.
Poland and Ukraine celebrated the Euro 2102 award in 2007
Europe's governing football body UEFA is facing a dilemma. Nobody is questioning that the Euro 2012 preparations in the Ukraine and Poland are in trouble, but the million dollar question is: What to do about it?
For the first time in the history of the organization, the right to host the showpiece of European football could be taken away or Germany could be used to find some sort of compromise. There are also those who are, even in the face of ever-growing evidence to the contrary, saying that everything will be fine.
The UEFA executive committee, which started its meeting in the five-star Grand Hotel in Bordeaux earlier on Thursday, is not only trying to save its own reputation, probably more importantly, it is trying to find a solution.
Shortly before the start of the two-day meeting the 13-member committee was presented with another possible alternative by the president of the Polish football federation. Michal Listkiewicz suggested on the website of a German newspaper that it might make sense to host the Euro finals in Ukraine and Poland four years later and give the 2012 finals to another country.
Platini now says the award can be removed
Listkiewicz seems far from convinced his country will be ready in four years time. The biggest problem: poor infrastructure and terrible traffic, he said.
"If the European Championships took place in 2016, we would no problems about being ready then," Listkiewicz told Die Zeit Online, the Internet platform of the weekly newspaper.
"But realistically we are looking at having no good roads in time for 2012." said Listkiewicz. "From Gdansk (in Poland) to Donetsk (in the Ukraine) is more than 1,500 kilometers (930 miles). This is not like in Austria and Switzerland where everything lies close together."
Moreover, he cast doubt on whether Poland's partners in Ukraine will be up to the job.
"If things don't go well now, and UEFA has another suggestion, then that would be in order," he said.
Awaiting a progress report
The German member of the executive committee, Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder said that he could not speculate what decision they would reach. "It is completely open. I do not want to say which way it will go."
Already it seems certain that the unexpected decision taken 17 months ago by the UEFA executive in Cardiff to give the 2012 Euro finals to Ukraine and Poland was - at best - premature. Inadequate stadiums, problems with the transport system and not enough hotel beds has given rise to serious concerns and pushed UEFA into a corner.
Mayer-Vorfelder admits that the decision in April 2007 was not only positive. "It was a unique situation. We wanted to include east Europe and there was only one other country bidding, Italy. They had their own problems and could not really be rewarded."
A long-awaited progress report on the ability of Poland and Ukraine to host the finals in four years' time is expected to criticize the two nations, but stop short of recommending that UEFA withdraw their right to host the tournament.
UEFA will decide how many teams can compete in 2012
In the event that the report is completely negative, Spain seems to have the best chance of replacing Ukraine and Poland, while a possible Germany-Poland scenario, with games in Berlin and Leipzig, seems little more than a rumor.
It could well be that the executive decides in Bordeaux to wait a bit longer - after all, in 2011 there will be UEFA presidential elections and the French president of the organization, Michel Platini, will need east European votes to be re-elected.