UEFA is set to decide which country will host the 2024 European Championship. Its evaluation report gave Germany, the edge, but DFB officials are worried that the nod could still go to Turkey.
Less than an hour after UEFA had released its evaluation reporton the German and Turkish bids to host the 2024 European Championship last Friday, the German Football Association (DFB) issued a statement hailing the findings of the report.
""The report shows that we have taken our work over the past several months seriously and UEFA has taken note of our strengths," the ambassador for the German bid, former national team captain Phillipp Lahm said in the statement.
The German bid is aimed at bringing the biggest football tournament to the country since it hosted the World Cup in 2006. The DFB believes that it will spur investment and create a new feeling of togetherness in the country, just like in 2006. It would also be the first time the county has hosted a European Championship since West Germany did so in 1988.
The German bid for 2024 is a modest one, at least in financial terms. All of the stadiums that would be used already exist, as does the necessary infrastructure. The same cannot be said of the Turkish bid, even if most of the stadiums it foresees using also already exist.
Not a done deal
However, while the DFB is projecting confidence about the bid in public, its officials are more than a little concerned that that their counterparts at the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) could still prevail in this Thursday's vote. A major reason for this is the fact that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made winning the bid a top priority.
Although they won't say so publicly, people at the DFB are wondering what the Turkish president might have had up his sleeve in days leading up to the decision. There are rumors that he has met with leaders of countries with people on the UEFA Executive Committee in an effort to get them the convince their ExCo members to vote in Turkey's favor.
There are also whispers around UEFA that having been overlooked in its bids for the 2008 (in conjunction with Greece), 2012 and 2016 European Championships, now it's Turkey's turn – but these are just whispers.
Put all of that together, and many at the DFB have been more than a little nervous in the weeks and days leading up to the vote – so much so, that lobbying efforts have been intensified and a confidential strategy paper has been drawn up.
'Economically prudent' German bid
When you ask DFB President Reinhard Grindel what the German bid has to offer, his reply is: "It's an economically prudent and environmentally friendly Euro in the heart of Europe." A lot of this has to do with the fact that hardly any work would need to be done on any of the 10 stadiums. However, in the next breath he adds "that the Euro must be played in a country that is politically and economically stable."
Secret strategy paper
The trick is to speak about the other bid, without actually mentioning the other bid, as this is forbidden under Article 17 of UEFA's rules governing the bidding processs. That's exactly what the DFB has been advised to do in the secret strategy paper that it commissioned the internationally renowned communications firm Burson-Marsteller to produce. On page five of the document, it advises the DFB to "always be sure" that "the weaknesses of the Turkish bid are mentioned."
The paper also warns that the presence of "critical media" in Germany could be a problem for the DFB bid, as well as the affair surrounding the awarding of the right to host the 2006 World Cup.
Reinhard Grindel denies any knowledge of the Burson-Marsteller document – even though it was the organization he leads that commissioned it.
One of the last major opportunities for the committees leading the two bids to win votes came in late August in Monaco, as the elite of European football gathered for the unveiling of the European Men's Player of the Year, as well as the draw for the group stage of this season's Champions League. Among them were most of the 17 members of the Executive Committee, who are to cast their ballots in this Friday's vote.
UEFA officials gathered in Monaco at the end of August, when Luka Modric was named European Player of the Year
Human rights 'not' a factor
One area in which the evaluation report gave Germany a clear advantage was in terms of human rights. And speaking to ExCo members, it quickly became clear, that the DFB bid did have the edge – but all insisted that this had nothing to do with political or economic factors.
Both sides took the opportunity to engage in lobbying, while in Monaco. The DFB wrote a letter to each of the Executive Committee members in which it extolled the virtues of the German bid. The Turkish committee countered with an invitation to the ExCo members to attend a "Turkish Gala Night."
This was a clear breach of Article 24 of the bidding process rules, which bars either side from inviting UEFA officials to their respective countries. However, UEFA did nothing to stop it.
For his part, Reinhard Grindel said things like: "The German government has helped us a great deal, We have been granted more state guarantees than ever before. This has clearly been with a view to our competitors, who agree to everything that UEFA wants. This is something we can't do.
And then he added: "That's the difference between Germany and Turkey."
This was a breach of Article 17, but here too, UEFA took no action.
Evaluation report not binding
Whichever way you look at things, you have to think Germany is the clear favorite going into Thursday's vote – but on the other hand, the Executive Committee members are not bound by the evaluation report meaning that until they have actually cast their ballots, the outcome remains in doubt.