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Monday 1 September 2014

Michel Platini: Ireland played pivotal role in creating 24-team European Championship

Daniel McDonnell in Nice

Published 22/02/2014 | 16:40

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Michel Platini is head of UEFA

UEFA president Michel Platini has defended the decision to expand the 2016 European Championships to 24 teams and pinpointed the role that Ireland and Scotland had in the process.

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The FAI and their Scottish counterparts lobbied for an expanded finals and, while fears have been expressed about the impact on quality, Platini feels that it will have a positive impact on the competition. England and Germany opposed the initiative.

He was speaking in Nice ahead of tomorrow's qualifying draw. The Frenchman conceded that the top nations might find it very straightforward to reach the tournament but thinks that, overall, the increased opportunities to sample a major finals will make the road to 2016 far more exciting.

“Ireland and Scotland wanted to see a 24-team tournament. They came up with this idea,” said Platini. “Now, there is so much pressure to qualify, even more difficult than before. The five or six biggest teams have nothing to worry about but the teams from 15th to 40th will be fighting very hard, it will be very tough. And when it comes to the finals, the 24 team will be as good as a 16 team tournament.”

Platini, who tripped over his words by briefly referring to Ireland and Scotland as British nations before quickly correcting himself on the Irish front, brushed off the concerns of the unhappy big guns by quipping that they could withdraw if they were unimpressed.

“It's a decision that was taken by the vast majority,” he said. “Two or three big associations like England, Germany and one other weren't in favour but of the 54 nations, 50 to 51 supported that tournament. In any democracy, if the vast majority is in favour, then it goes through.”

Ireland and Scotland would travel in big numbers if they succeeded in crossing the line, but Platini answered politically when asked what their fans could bring to the tournament. “I am the President of 54 members nations and I can't say that I prefer one team,” he smiled.

The 58-year-old was in more serious mood when discussing last week's refereeing controversies in the Champions League. Platini has previously gone on record to state that he would prefer a change to the rules of the game to prevent a 'triple punishment' like the sanction imposed on Arsenal for the dismissal of Wojciech Szczesny in their defeat to Bayern Munich. The Pole was sent off for committing a professional foul in giving away a penalty kick and will also serve a suspension in the second leg.

Platini urged FIFA and rules body IFAB [International Football Association Board] to address the situation. “They are stupid rules,” he said, “We are asking to change the rules. It can be a yellow card and a penalty. It's up to IFAB and FIFA.”

UEFA president Michel Platini has defended the decision to expand the 2016 European Championships to 24 teams and pinpointed the role that Ireland and Scotland had in the process.

The FAI and their Scottish counterparts lobbied for an expanded finals and, while fears have been expressed about the impact on quality, Platini feels that it will have a positive impact on the competition. England and Germany opposed the initiative.

He was speaking in Nice ahead of tomorrow's qualifying draw. The Frenchman conceded that the top nations might find it very straightforward to reach the tournament but thinks that, overall, the increased opportunities to sample a major finals will make the road to 2016 far more exciting.

“Ireland and Scotland wanted to see a 24-team tournament. They came up with this idea,” said Platini. “Now, there is so much pressure to qualify, even more difficult than before. The five or six biggest teams have nothing to worry about but the teams from 15th to 40th will be fighting very hard, it will be very tough. And when it comes to the finals, the 24 team will be as good as a 16 team tournament.”

Platini, who tripped over his words by briefly referring to Ireland and Scotland as British nations before quickly correcting himself on the Irish front, brushed off the concerns of the unhappy big guns by quipping that they could withdraw if they were unimpressed.

“It's a decision that was taken by the vast majority,” he said. “Two or three big associations like England, Germany and one other weren't in favour but of the 54 nations, 50 to 51 supported that tournament. In any democracy, if the vast majority is in favour, then it goes through.”

Ireland and Scotland would travel in big numbers if they succeeded in crossing the line, but Platini answered politically when asked what their fans could bring to the tournament. “I am the President of 54 members nations and I can't say that I prefer one team,” he smiled.

The 58-year-old was in more serious mood when discussing last week's refereeing controversies in the Champions League. Platini has previously gone on record to state that he would prefer a change to the rules of the game to prevent a 'triple punishment' like the sanction imposed on Arsenal for the dismissal of Wojciech Szczesny in their defeat to Bayern Munich. The Pole was sent off for committing a professional foul in giving away a penalty kick and will also serve a suspension in the second leg.

Platini urged FIFA and rules body IFAB [International Football Association Board] to address the situation. “They are stupid rules,” he said, “We are asking to change the rules. It can be a yellow card and a penalty. It's up to IFAB and FIFA.”

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