Exclusive - More FAs Rule Out Battling Turkey for Euro 2020

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Turkish football fans watch their team during Euro 2008 (Getty)
(WFI) Five more European football associations tell World Football INSIDER they are not interested in bidding for Euro 2020, paving the way for Turkey to secure hosting rights later this month - unless the Turkish government chooses to back Istanbul's 2020 Olympic bid.

Previously touted as possible contenders for Euro 2020, the FAs told INSIDER they would not now be bidding against the favourite Turkey, whose football federation announced plans to bid in mid-April.

Officials from the FAs of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Hungary, Romania and Serbia ruled out bids for their countries. The German FA ruled out a bid last Friday, while Bulgaria and the Netherlands also last month ended speculation they might enter the UEFA contest.

A joint Azerbaijan-Georgia bid remains a possibility, but INSIDER was told on Thursday by an Azeri source that the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup hosts were only focusing on the Baku 2020 Olympic bid.

It leaves Turkey as the only bidder for Euro 2020.

A UEFA spokesman declined to comment on whether any other nations had submitted their interest in holding the European championships after France 2016. That won't be made clear until after May 15, the deadline set by UEFA for its 53 member nations to register interest in hosting Euro 2020.

But if Turkey turns out to be the only country bidding to stage the tournament, UEFA has said it would then proceed with collecting all necessary guarantees with the aim of confirming the hosts. Otherwise, the vote would not be held until late 2013 or early 2014.

UEFA president Michel Platini has expressed support for Turkey after it missed out to France by one vote in 2010 in the bidding contest to stage the expanded 24-nation Euro 2016. But he indicated last month that he would only back Turkey's candidacy if Istanbul's bid for the 2020 Olympics failed.

Istanbul 2020 officials maintain they have support at every level of government.

Bid leader Hasan Arat, who is also vice president of the Turkish NOC, told INSIDER that the bid had given all guarantees to the IOC and securing the Olympics was "a national priority" reinforced in recent comments made by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

But only last month Erdogan called on Platini to award Turkey the European Championships in a speech to the UEFA Congress in Istanbul in March. “I would like to repeat the request to host the European Championship in Istanbul in 2020," he told the congress.

In remarks to INSIDER at an Olympics and world sports convention in Moscow last month, Arat also said any Turkish FA pitch for Euro 2020 "will not hurt our bid".

However, if Turkey is a shoo-in for Euro 2020, it leaves the Turkish government with a major headache - does it back football, the country's most popular sport, or face losing a fifth Olympic bid in a tough five-city race for the 2020 Games.

With strong competition from Baku, Doha, Madrid and Tokyo for 2020 hosting rights, the easy decision for the Turkish government will be to drop its Olympic bid.

The IOC is scheduled to shortlist the 2020 cities on May 23 at SportAccord in Quebec City.

That process could yet be made easier if Istanbul abandons its bid campaign to focus on Euro 2020.

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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