The global financial crisis has hampered Ukraine's preparations to co-host Euro 2012 with neighboring Poland. The new Polish soccer chief is already considering other options.
Grzegorz Lato walked into a controversy shortly after taking over as PZPN president
Former Polish soccer great Grzegorz Lato, the newly-elected head of the Polish soccer federation (PZPN), immediately began courting controversy after his appointment on Thursday, Oct. 29 by suggesting Poland would turn to Germany as its co-host for Euro 2012 should original co-organizers Ukraine prove incapable.
Lato, a legendary player and top scorer at the 1974 World Cup, took over from Michal Listkiewicz as president of the ailing PZPN, taking on the role of his country's top official overseeing the run-up to Poland's first ever hosting of the European championships.
Lato was voted in at a gathering of 113 PZPN delegates in Warsaw after Listkiewicz stepped down amid a corruption investigation.
"Germany could join it (the plan to organize Euro 2012)," Lato told Polish television when asked him what could happen should Ukraine be unable to honor their original commitment.
Lato added, however, that Poland would be able to organize the tournament itself should it need to but expressed his hope that "Ukraine would be able to finish the preparations in time."
Lato's comments were described as "harmful" to the project by Poland's Interior Minister Grzegorz Schetyna and that the championship was a "mutual project and has a chance only when we treat it as such."
Ukraine feeling the pinch
Grigori Surkis, president of the Ukraine FA, in happier times
Ukraine's Euro 2012 plans had earlier been thrown into doubt by a statement by its tournament organizer Evgeny Villinsky who said financial problems had meant Ukraine's preparations to host the tournament had come to a halt.
According to the Interfax-Ukraine news agency, Villinsky added that the global financial crisis and ill-advised management were the reasons for the stopping of preparatory work.
The statement hinting at a cooperation agreement with Germany added to the unease in certain circles over Lato's appointment
The former striker quickly came under fire after being named PZPN president, mainly from politicians who claimed he was not up to the task of ridding Polish soccer of corruption.
Slawomir Nowak, top aide to Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, said that Lato's appointment was an obvious defeat for those who had ideas to improve the organization. "This probably isn't the best news for Polish soccer," he told Radio ZET. "We'll have to wait longer for the process and cleaning up ... of Polish soccer."
Interior Minister Schetyna told the Polish Press Agency that Lato was a "step backwards" for the federation, and that PZPN should "open itself to new solutions and new people, and this isn't happening."
Elzbieta Jakubiak, head of a Parliament sports commission, said Lato won't make the needed changes as head of PZPN.
Lato said he would resign in a year if the organization made no improvement, and called on other officials to work together and make Euro 2012 "our shared success."
Polish corruption causing tensions
Games in Poland are suspected of being fixed
The new PZPN president takes over at time of unprecedented tension between the government, the national soccer federation and world soccer's governing body, FIFA.
The Sports Ministry recently made a motion to suspend PZPN officials in an effort to clamp down on corruption, but FIFA warned Poland would lose upcoming World Cup qualifying games and rights to Euro 2012 unless it reinstated the officials.
FIFA, which doesn't tolerate political interference in soccer issues, withdrew the ultimatum after a letter from the ministry that showed a "positive evolution" in the situation.
The investigation into Polish soccer was launched in May 2005, and so far has charged nearly 100 people including referees, officials and federation members.
Justice Minister Zbigniew Cwiakalski said on Friday there will "certainly" be more charges in the ongoing investigation that looks at years 2003 and 2004.
"There were entire rounds that were fixed in certain clubs," Cwiakalski told Polish radio. "All the matches -- one by one -- were decided before they took place."
Cwiakalski said he didn't have proof that the PZPN was involved in the corruption, but admitted he couldn't imagine "professionals didn't know about something that took place on a large scale in their surroundings."