UEFA Championships set for expansion

The European Championships look certain to be expanded from 16 to 24 teams after the proposal today won universal support from UEFA’s 53 member countries.

A final decision will be taken by UEFA’s executive committee in September but there was no opposition to the plan when it was raised at a meeting of association presidents and general secretaries in Vienna today.

The change would come into force for Euro 2016 and was originally put forward by the Scottish FA last year. Their chief executive Gordon Smith said he was delighted by the response.

Smith said: “It’s something UEFA have seen no real disadvantage to - it will only means a few extra days of the tournament and there is no down side in terms of loss of revenue.

“The feeling in the meeting was everyone else was in favour as well. There’s an appetite for it, everyone appreciated the advantages and no one spoke against it.

“It will make the qualifying competition more attractive as more teams come into the mix and that will keep the group alive longer.

“We just missed out for this tournament behind Italy and France but under the proposed new regulations we would have qualified.”

An Italian Football Federation spokesman said: “It was 100%, it will happen for 2016 and it will boost the smaller nations.”

UEFA president Michel Platini had earlier insisted that increasing the size of the tournament would not affect the quality of the competition.

He said: “Remember, I won the Euros [in 1984] when there were only eight teams.

“It is not certain it was better with eight teams than 16 or that 16 is better than 24 or 32 or 54.

“I am not worried about the quality by increasing the number of teams. Countries like England, Denmark, Scotland, Ireland, Belgium, Serbia, Ukraine and Bulgaria all have the ability to participate in a European Championship.

“Would they reduce the quality of the Euro? I believe they have the quality to take part. There are teams that could be at the Euros and even enhance the quality of the competition.”

The European Championship finals were between just four teams from 1960 until 1976, and that rose to eight teams in 1980. The first 16-team finals were at Euro ’96 in England.

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