— Published 24 March 2022

Banned from world sport, Russia still wants the euro football tournament

The news is perplexing. On Wednesday 23 March, UEFA announced the names of the candidate countries for the 2028 and 2032 men’s Euro football tournaments. The list is short. But it includes a nation that it was difficult to imagine currently applying for one of the world’s most watched sporting events.

Banished from the sporting movement since its invasion of Ukraine, Russia has submitted a bid to host the men’s Euro football tournament. It is not applying for just one edition, which would already have been a heresy in the geopolitical context, but for the two tournaments put on the line by UEFA. 2028 and 2032. No less.

Russia’s intentions were known, as were its plans to obtain the organisation of a Rugby World Cup and the Olympic Games. But it seemed certain that its banishment from the international sports movement, initiated by the IOC and then followed by the vast majority of bodies, would prevent it from realising its project.

In reality, not at all. UEFA has confirmed that Russia is applying for Euro 2028 and 2032. However, its clubs and national teams have been suspended by UEFA and FIFA from all continental and world competitions, including the Women’s Euro and the Men’s World Cup 2022, until further notice.

But according to AFP, the Russian Football Federation (RFF) has not itself been suspended by the two bodies. Not yet. It could be in the next few weeks, as the Russian case is on the agenda of the two upcoming meetings of the body’s executive committee, scheduled for April and May.

Should the continental body decide to suspend the Russian Football Association, its bid for Euro 2028 and 2023 would be reduced to dust. Under its regulations, UEFA can only award one or other of its events to a federation whose membership is neither terminated nor suspended.

In any case, it seems unimaginable that UEFA would award an edition of the Euro to Russia, even by 2032. Even if the Russians are kept in the bidding process, they will not play any role in the final decision, which is expected to be made for both events in September 2023.

However, the die is not cast. Against all odds, a surprise guest has decided to enter the campaign. Turkey, like Russia, has notified UEFA of its intention to bid for the two successive editions of the Euro football tournament.

For the first, in 2028, the UK-Ireland ticket thought it was already the winner because of the lack of competition. The British will have to eliminate Turkey. A priori, a rival largely within their reach.

The five federations involved in the project – England, Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Wales – still have to obtain guarantees from their governments. A formality. As a reminder, the United Kingdom and Ireland were initially eyeing the 2030 World Cup, before changing their strategy and entering the race for Euro 2028.

For the 2032 edition, Italy is the overwhelming favourite. Its team holds the trophy. Above all, the country has not hosted the Euro since the 1980 edition. The Italians will also have to get rid of Turkey, a candidate like Russia for 2028 and 2032. They have the means to do so.

As a reminder, the next edition of the men’s Euro, scheduled for 2024, will be held in Germany.

There is still one unknown, but it is a big one: will the Euro be placed in competition with the World Cup in 2028 and 2032? The FIFA project of a World Cup every two years, prepared by Arsène Wenger and supported by Gianni Infantino, is still in the pipeline. If it were to be finally implemented, the European tournament would undoubtedly suffer. And, with it, its host countries.