Football: Euro 96 launched on wave of optimism

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The Independent Online
The launch of Euro 96 in London yesterday may have lacked a Klinsmann connection to rekindle memories of the triumph achieved by Alf Ramsey's Wingless Wonders three decades ago, but there was a mood of confidence and expectation all the same. Even so Terry Venables, the England coach, did stop short of predicting victory for the hosts as his predecessor did all those years ago.

Instead, as tickets went on general sale for what the Football Association called 'the biggest sporting and cultural event to take place in England for 30 years', Richard Moller-Nielsen, the coach of the European champions, Denmark, was there to massage the English ego, telling the assembled gathering that the bookmakers had it about right by making England favourites.

Whether or not the class of '96 can vindicate that favouritism by carrying off the Henri Delaunay Trophy remains to be seen. What is less open to question, is that the country who gave the game to the world is capable of showing them how to organise a tournament. With 590 days still to go, the 10th European Championship finals look certain to be a huge success.

It is anticipated that the profit to Uefa from finals, expanded from eight to 16 teams for the first time, will be about pounds 110m with the FA's share expected to reach a maximum pounds 7.5m after the deduction of pounds 13m expenses.

'We're putting in four years of very hard work and incurring a great deal of expense so we hope to make a margin of profit for our traditional purposes of developing grass roots football in England,' Glen Kirton, the director of Euro 96, said. 'But if there is a conflict between the FA making a profit and staging a good tournament, then the priority is a good tournament.'

Modernisation of the stadia, satisfying both the demands of Uefa and the Taylor Report, cost a total of pounds 72m with the Football Trust donating pounds 17.51m in grants. Television revenue is expected to make up about pounds 35m of the total profit, commercial activities pounds 30m and ticket sales pounds 50m.

Over 150,000 tickets have already been sold, with the FA deliberately giving priority to loyal fans, the 'Football Family', as it calls them. The family consists of club season ticket holders, club members or England Travel Club members. Prices in the new all-seater stadia range from pounds 15 to pounds 130 for the best seat at the final.

With 40 per cent of the seats reserved for fans from competing nations, tickets for home consumption will be at a premium. There is unlikely to be a repetition of the opening game gaffe at Wembley in '66 when spectators without a ticket were warned to stay away and as a result the stadium was only three-quarters full.

Unlike previous tournaments a single ticket for a single match can be bought. However, tickets for the knockout stages will be allocated on a progressive loyalty basis.

England will play their three group games at Wembley, starting with the opening game on Saturday, 8 June, and providing they win the group will remain in their fortress for as long as they keep on winning. If they finish second in their group they will move to Anfield for their quarter-final and then, if successful, on to Old Trafford for their semi-final.

Venables is under no illusions about his task, describing the competition as 'ferocious'. He said: 'We've just seen a World Cup where the Europeans had great success - seven of them among the last eight - and it didn't even include countries like our own and France.'

How to get tickets for Euro 96, Glenn Moore, page 38

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