UEFA confident French stadiums will be ready for 2016

Reuters, Wednesday 26 Jun 2013

UEFA is confident France will be ready to stage the 2016 European soccer championship even though stadium construction has yet to start, officials said on Wednesday.

The countdown to the tournament began as Euro 2016 organisers unveiled the logo of the continental competition which twice winners France will host for the third time, after the first edition in 1960 and a home triumph in 1984.

The qualification draw will take place on Feb. 23 next year, with 53 national teams competing to be among the 24 finalists.

 France had to build or refurbish most of the stadiums for the tournament but that was not a concern for the European governing body, UEFA president Michel Platini told reporters.

 "I think that all the stadiums will be ready," Frenchman Platini, who scored a record nine goals in the 1984 event, told reporters.

"Lyon (stadium) is going to be built, Lens looks like it will be done, I don't think there will be a problem," he added.

While the St Etienne, Marseille and Bordeaux venues, used for the 1998 World Cup, are being refurbished, work has barely begun in Lyon.

The future Stadium of Lights, which will have a capacity of 60,000 and is the first venue to be 100 percent funded by private investment, is expected to be ready by late 2015.

Heavy work, scheduled to last 30 months, has not yet started because of a string of legal actions brought by activists.

 "We can't imagine having the Euro in France without Lyon but when France need to do something, they do it," UEFA's general secretary Gianni Infantino said.

"We really trust France. We staged the last Euro in Poland and Ukraine and it had not been easy. It's a completely different situation here because France already have all the infrastructure. Apart from stadiums, there's nothing to build."

Stadiums have been a critical issue for French soccer, with clubs blaming poor facilities and small venues for their lack of revenue compared to German or English top sides.

Ligue 1 games have attracted an average 19,261 spectators while Bundesliga attendance is more than 37,000 per match.

"On average, French stadiums date back to the 1950s. I remind you that we're investing 1.7 billon euros. I think we can dream of catching up Germany," French league president Frederic Thiriez said.

 Euro 2016 will run from June 10 to July 10 and will feature 24 teams instead of 16 for the first time.

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