UEFA’s executive committee has given the green light to holding the European championships in 2020 across the continent.
Former French captain Michel Platini, who is president of UEFA, first mooted the idea of holding the tournament in a number of cities earlier this year, as a way of avoiding high costs at a time of dire financial constraints in many countries.
“UEFA Euro 2020 will be staged across the continent, in various major cities, following a decision taken today,” said the ruling body’s secretary-general Gianni Infantino, calling the tournament in eight years’ time “A Euro for Europe”.
“The response has been extremely positive from all the national associations,” he added, apart from Turkey.
But there was widespread disbelief among many fans on the micro-blogging site Twitter, in particular over the potential cost of travelling to watch games in a number of countries.
“Meanwhile, the chief execs of (low cost airlines) Ryanair and Easyjet are jumping for joy,” noted one user.
A decision to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup has already caused disquiet among fans, especially a plan to host the finals during the Gulf winter months - mid-season for European leagues.
Infantino said he was not in a position to say how many countries and cities would be involved but if the project was ready in January, it would be rubber-stamped then or at the executive committee meeting on March 23.
Cities were likely to be chosen in early 2014 - six years before the start of the tournament, he added.
Turkey, which has put itself forward as a candidate for 2020 alongside Azerbaijan and Georgia and a three-way bid from the Republic of Ireland, Wales and Scotland, was the only country opposed to the project.
Istanbul is also a candidate to host the Olympic Games in the same year, although the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said that having one country host two major events so close to each other is against its rules.
FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke, speaking in a personal capacity, said last week that he failed to grasp the concept of a continent-wide tournament, saying it would destroy the competition.
Platini said before the eve of this year’s Euro finals that the 60th anniversary of the competition, which is held every four years, could involve “12 or 13 cities across Europe” and that most of the 53 UEFA federations were in favour.
Central to his argument was that it would make organisation easier, after serious concerns about cost overruns and infrastructure delays in this year’s hosts Poland and particularly Ukraine.