The dark side of UEFA 2012

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of PLC.

While there is justified enthusiasm at Ukraine's co-hosting of the 2012 European Football Championship, the event's organisation also highlights the government's inability to maintain infrastructure and manage public finance, says Yuriy Plyas.

Yuriy Plyas analyses Ukrainian politics and is editor-in-chief of the Ukrainian Foundation for Democracy – 'People First' website.

"This coming summer for the whole month Ukraine and Poland will become an arena for one of the most remarkable events of football life on the planet – the European football championship. It is not surprising that in already distant year of 2007 when the two countries were chosen to be the future hosts of this prestigious tournament, both Ukrainians and Poles glowed with optimism.

Actually, optimism is very infectious, but it didn't affect UEFA functionaries when a year later they arrived to check what has been made for the championship of 2012 in Ukraine. After that visit there was a period when in football circles there was the awkward rumour that we would be deprived of the right to conduct the championship.

Low preparation, a lot of unresolved questions and certain doubtful transactions which took place in our state surrounding Euro 2012 infrastructure projects were considered to be reasons for this.

However, a favourable attitude of the UEFA president, the legendary Michel Platini, to our countries has done its part. The specificity of the Ukrainian mentality has also played a certain role; after all, it is habitual for our people to catch up in an accelerated tempo and accomplish tasks as a result of heroic efforts.

The UEFA management now also points to the presence of some unresolved problems. UEFA operational director Martin Kallen, in an interview with the Swiss newspaper Berner Zeitung, has noticed that his organisation is embarrassed by the existing infrastructure problems. The diplomatic Mr Kallen didn't specify that this remark mainly has to do with our state.

After all Poland, long-supported by the EU, has achieved the level which is inaccessible for today's Ukraine. Problems in this sphere, apart from other things, have also brought considerable disappointments to Ukrainian fans and business.

A majority of national teams which will participate in the championship have decided to use accommodation outside Ukraine. Such decisions have been made even by several national teams which will play qualifying matches in Ukraine's stadiums, including the Danish team.

Even our Russian neighbours have decided to quarter their national team in Warsaw. Only four teams participating in Euro 2012 have decided to choose Ukraine as their temporary home (France, Sweden, Greece and Ukraine itself), which causes certain sorrow.

Another problem voiced by a European football official is known to all citizens of Ukraine. This problem is the quality of roads. And although, as the official has noted, the Ukrainian authorities are actively working in this direction, this question hasn't been tackled sufficiently.

It is worth paying attention to the fact that some road arteries important for the future championship remain in an unsatisfactory condition. Besides, a part of those roads which has been recently 'repaired', again requires the attention of corresponding services. And this is when the State Highway Service of Ukraine has taken 37 billion grivnas (about €3.5 billion) credits under the state guarantees with the aim of constructing roads of the European quality for Euro 2012. So, dear builders, where are your results?

In addition, it is likely that the European Championship will turn out to not really be economically profitable. Taking into account the experience of previous hosts such as Portugal, Austria and Switzerland – which all spent more than received in from the UEFA and tourism – image-building and development of internal infrastructure are the main achievements which Ukraine and Poland should reckon on.

Having analysed the data available at open sources, it is possible to forecast that as a result of conducting Euro 2012, Ukraine will get about €1 billion of total receipts. About €75 million out of the specified sum will be received by the state budget. The expenses of our state spent on the organisation of the championship, according to different estimations, will reach €8-15 billion.

According to official announcements, Poland is planning to spend almost €20 billion for the preparation of the championship. The European Union has promised to compensate one-third of this. Foreign investors aren't hurrying to invest in Ukraine. Experts consider crisis, political instability and the inability of the Ukrainian leadership to clearly formulate at least one investment project to be the reasons of such state of affairs. Hence, the Ukrainian party in preparing for Euro 2012 will have to mainly rely on its own resources.

Short-sightedness of the Ukrainian authorities is demonstrated also in the context of the question of what will we do with all the constructed infrastructure after the championship is over? Yes, the majority of the sports infrastructure and accumulated capacities of the airports can and will be of use in future, but the number of newly built hotels and hostels will surely not meet the requirements of the tourist market of our state.

Let's notice that there are problems even with the main sports projects. It is widely known that the price paid by the budget for the reconstruction of the 'Olimpiyskyi' [stadium] breaks all records of 'being economical'. And the location of the stadium in Lviv is set near not only local inhabitants, but also domestic animals which graze nearby.

Or maybe this is Lviv know-how and in the future it is planned that the cattle will be fans of our football players on the modern arena side by side with people. Or maybe our fans are considered to be the cattle and people in top offices don't think of how fans are going to get to the sports complex…

But, not to be too negative, it is necessary to notice that as a whole the European community and the world of football have expressed positive hopes for the championship in Ukraine and Poland. A lot has already been done in our state for a worthy execution of Euro 2012. Independent experts assess readiness for this event at the level of 90 % and this is when we still have five months to go before the beginning of the championship.

Now we will not recall unkept promises and budgets overspent many times, not to spoil the mood before the sports holiday. However, as the public figure Vitaliy Klychko has offered, after the football championship, it would be good to audit the administrative decisions made by the authorities and the control which should have been carried out by the opposition. We will hope that public prosecution will efficiently help with this initiative."