UEFA stick with Euro 2012 hosts

Poland and Ukraine have won a reprieve from UEFA and will remain as Euro 2012 joint hosts – but with a warning to speed up their preparations.

UEFA inspectors had produced a critical report of the preparations and infrastructure but fears European football’s rulers would move the finals to another country have been laid to rest.

UEFA’s executive committee decided to keep the countries as hosts but told the pair they have to stick to a strict timetable of preparations, a UEFA source confirmed.

Meanwhile, UEFA are expected to formally confirm in December that Wembley will host the 2011 Champions League final.

The Government confirmed in May there will be an exemption to tax rules for players appearing in the final and the decision should be rubber-stamped by UEFA’s next executive committee on December 16.

Dublin’s Lansdowne Road is viewed as favourite to be named as venue for the 2011 Europa League – the old UEFA Cup – final.

The competition is being relaunched as the Europa League from next season but beaten FA Cup finalists will no longer be allowed into the competition.

The new-look league will have 48 clubs in 12 groups of four, with the top two in each joining the eight third-placed clubs from the Champions League in a 32-club knock-out stage.

UEFA took the decision at their executive committee meeting in Bordeaux, and also ruled beaten cup finalists will no longer be eligible even if the cup winners have qualified for the Champions League – as has been the case with Millwall and West Ham in recent years.

A UEFA spokesman said: “The new format will result in many teams from all over Europe contesting the new UEFA Europa League, with teams from emerging countries or lesser-known teams challenging the ’old’ order of established European clubs.

“It is exactly this special character that the new identity will seek to capture.”

The competition will have TV rights sold centrally, in the same way as the Champions League, which should increase income to clubs.

UEFA also rubber-stamped an expansion of the European Championships from 16 to 24 teams from 2016.

The decision came after a proposal from the Scottish Football Association and the Football Association of Ireland.

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