UEFA’s executive committee will decide if Germany or Turkey will host the 2024 European Championship in Nyon on Thursday, with the German bid refusing to get into a haggling contest over potential revenues.
Germany has been the front-runner since the bids were confirmed at the start of 2017 but the contest is believed to have narrowed in recent months.
That is thanks to a series of mishaps by the German FA and Turkey’s offer to give UEFA all of its venues and staff free of charge, as well as waiving all taxes for companies involved in staging the tournament.
A German Euro 2024, on the other hand, would be taxed at the usual rate for corporations, and the local organising committee would have to pay to use the 10 proposed stadiums and training bases, as well as covering staff costs.
So while a German tournament would undoubtedly have much higher revenues – it would have 300,000 more tickets to sell than a Turkish tournament, for example – it would have higher costs and taxes.
Speaking to reporters in Munich earlier this month, German FA president Reinhard Grindel said: “No, we will not say you can be sure will make you more money but we can assure UEFA that if we says it costs one euro, it will cost one euro, and if we say you will get one euro, you will get one euro.
“UEFA has had very good experiences with Germany. We have hosted Champions League finals and Euros before and they got exactly what we promised. That is our strongest point.”
Bid etiquette demands that neither side can criticise the other but Germany’s pitch is clear: it offers certainty, while Turkey is a step into the dark.
“It’s all about stability,” admitted bid ambassador and former Bayern Munich and Germany star Philipp Lahm.
“Germany has been very stable economically and politically for decades. OK, we’ve had some societal challenges but overall we have a great environment for the tournament.
“We have to look six years into the future and we can assure UEFA it will find a very similar environment to the situation now.”
The societal challenges he refers to, however, may be the reason why some observers, particularly in Germany, believe this race is closer than many predicted.
The gloom following Germany’s surprisingly limp defence of the World Cup title this summer was exacerbated when Arsenal star Mesut Ozil quit the team, accusing Grindel and the German FA of racism. Both parties have rejected the accusation.
Ozil was born and raised in Gelsenkirchen but comes from a Turkish family and the issues he raised provoked a wide debate about attitudes towards Germany’s large immigrant population.
The fact the whole row about Ozil started because of a picture he and Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan appeared in with Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in London in May has only added further intrigue to the Euro 2024 contest.
Turkey’s economy was growing fast under Erdogan but domestic opposition to his autocratic rule, which led to a failed coup in 2016, has spilled over into the international arena. Turkey’s currency has lost 40 per cent of its value this year.
Concerns about Turkey’s economy and human-rights record were flagged up in a UEFA evaluation report last week.
The 40-page document measured each bid in 12 areas, including the quality of the stadiums, the political landscape and transport infrastructure. Germany was rated much more favourably, although the report did note its refusal to grant a tax exemption.
While the report did praise elements of the Turkish bid there was no escaping the fact it needs to rebuild two stadiums, including the centrepiece Ataturk venue in Istanbul, renovate another, upgrade nine airports, build thousands of kilometres of new railways and roads, and address serious hotel shortages in seven of the nine host cities.
“Recent economic developments might put planned public investments under pressure,” was UEFA’s dry observation of the potential risks.
It also pointed out that with the Ataturk Stadium scheduled to host the 2020 Champions League final, Turkey might already have enough on its plate.
Despite all this, there is concern in Germany that it might be the victim of a Qatar-style upset.
With UEFA ExCo members Grindel and Turkish Football Federation vice-chairman Servet Yardimci not able to vote and Denmark’s Lars-Christer Olsson unwell, the electorate is down to 17.
UEFA treasurer and former Manchester United chief executive David Gill will vote for Germany, as will former Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis, but the allegiances of many of the other members are uncertain.
Both bids will make their final 15-minute pitches to the ExCo at noon UK time, with a decision expected at 1.45pm.