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The Warsaw Voice » Real Estate » January 16, 2008
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Tackling UEFA Euro 2012 Challenges
January 16, 2008   
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Krzysztof Wierzbowski, Adriana Bronikowska and Michał Kurzyński of Wierzbowski Eversheds, a law firm that is part of the Eversheds International network, talk to Konrad Bagiński. Wierzbowski Eversheds is advising the Polish government as the country prepares to host the UEFA Euro 2012 soccer championships together with Ukraine.

Your firm began its work as the government's UEFA Euro 2012 advisor long before the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) selected Poland and Ukraine to jointly host UEFA Euro 2012. What does your role as a government adviser involve?

Krzysztof Wierzbowski: As early as 2005 we met with officials from the Polish Football Association (PZPN) and briefed them on Eversheds' experience in preparing London's bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games. Our colleagues from the British offices are currently working on the legal aspects of the London Olympics. This is very valuable experience that we used while preparing the Polish bid. We handled many matters for the UEFA Euro 2012 campaign staff, including the coordination of tasks among the ministries, collaboration with the Ukrainians, monitoring the time schedule, and preparing legal opinions and documents for UEFA in line with Polish law. In the case of UEFA, this was not just a matter of tedious documents. What was important for them was the "spirit of the championships," the stressing of the benefits for the country, and public support. We organized meetings and day-to-day contacts with UEFA. Ultimately, we worked to make the Ukrainian and Polish bids uniform. It was only then that-during a ceremony in Cardiff, Wales, on April 18, 2007-UEFA President Michel Platini announced the selection of Poland and Ukraine to jointly host UEFA Euro 2012.

What specific legal changes have you proposed to the Polish government to speed up preparations for UEFA Euro 2012?

KW:One of the most important things is a special UEFA Euro 2012 act to help undertake the necessary investment projects. That does not exhaust the matter, however. We need a plethora of new regulations covering a broad spectrum of issues that are related to public procurement, tenders, stadium security, border traffic, and the rights of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).

Can public-private partnerships (PPP) help in UEFA Euro 2012 preparations? What are the main barriers to such projects?

Adriana Bronikowska:It's the atmosphere around PPP. Public officials are often afraid of working with private businesses due to suspicions of corruption. Sometimes it is more convenient for an official to not do anything rather than to make a decision with even a tiny bit of risk attached to it.

Michał Kurzyński:It cannot be simply assumed that each and every situation in which public and private interests are at play involves corruption. The two are not alien worlds. Although the PPP law could be better, I think it's better to try and apply it in practice and only later eliminate any imperfections rather than changing it immediately. One drawback of this law is that it throws all projects into a single bag. There is no subdivision into small and large, which would facilitate work, especially in the case of minor projects. The act should be verified in practice, something which, for the moment, is lacking.

KW: Let's face it: the public sector does not have the money to cover all the projects that must be completed in connection with UEFA Euro 2012. If the money is not there, then that means it should be sought in the private sector. No one is as good at managing money or projects as the private sector. It is also possible to undertake PPP-type projects in Poland without any basis in legislation. What is needed most is a desire to complete a project.

MK: Besides, private companies are often seen as a source of capital, not as partners. Worse yet, they are seen as competition. The idea behind PPP is joint planning, design and investment, as well as risk sharing. Costs may prove to be another barrier. Professional advisors must be hired prior to launching the investment process. Officials are afraid that costly advisors may demonstrate that PPP is not the best path to carrying out a given project. That is why smaller projects should be carried out in a simpler manner.

KW: The success of such smaller projects may also blow away the air of suspicion with respect to major projects.

Poland is hosting UEFA Euro 2012 together with Ukraine. Have Polish officials and businesses already begun to work with their Ukrainian counterparts to organize the event?

MK:Both we and the Ukrainians are still in the planning phase, yet we are maintaining good contact all the time in many specific areas. It is important that we share knowledge. It has to be remembered, however, that the Ukrainians have a lot more freedom because they are not bound by European Union rules governing tenders, for example.

AB:At the moment both we and the Ukrainians are concentrating on our respective tasks. From the point of view of the time schedule, the building of stadium infrastructure is now considered to be of prime importance. We will take the next steps jointly. They will involve the organizing of tournaments, promotion, and security.

KW:We are also focusing on facilitating border traffic. UEFA requires a whole package of legislative changes, the regulation of intellectual property issues, and tax privileges. That is going to be hard and exhausting work.

In a nutshell, what tasks is Poland facing in connection with UEFA Euro 2012?

MK:It is necessary to build, implement and check the operation of modern security systems. It is necessary to create a national volunteer system, and find and train those who are interested.

KW:It is also necessary to train a group of volunteers three times as big as what is needed-so as to be ready for the fact that some volunteers may change their plans, be sick, or leave the country. Volunteers are extremely important. It is thanks to their dedication and titanic efforts that the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens could be held.

AB: Adapt and administer regulations for fans so that Polish stadiums are safe during UEFA Euro 2012.

KW:In their work on the championships, both the national and local governments should adhere as closely as possible to the bid approved by UEFA and work with UEFA authorities in such a way that our ability to prepare and organize the event does not cause any concern among UEFA officials. We have four years left and we cannot waste this time because being selected to host UEFA Euro 2012 is an enormous success. Just a few years ago few believed that we could be successful. We were successful thanks to positive energy, good coordinations and hard work.
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