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The Warsaw Voice » Society » October 8, 2008
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Success in Bordeaux, Crisis in Warsaw
October 8, 2008 By W.Ż.    
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Poland has received the green light to host Euro 2012 but has been warned it may still lose the right to hold the soccer championships if preparations fall behind schedule. Meanwhile, the government has clashed with world soccer governing body FIFA after suspending the Polish soccer association board.

Poland and Ukraine kept their right to jointly host the Euro 2012 European soccer championships following a Sept. 26 meeting of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) in Bordeaux, France.

However, a few days later the Polish government clashed with the country's soccer association, the PZPN, braving flak from the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA).

The PZPN has been riddled by a series of corruption scandals in recent years and a succession of sports ministers have tried to oust its head Michał Listkiewicz.

Success in Bordeaux
Polish sports officials beamed with satisfaction and optimism after the two-day UEFA meeting ended in Bordeaux.

"The decision on Poland and Ukraine hosting the European championships in 2012 is final," said the PZPN's Listkiewicz after the meeting. "This puts an end to any speculation on the possibility of taking the event away from us."

Listkiewicz said the UEFA positively evaluated both countries' preparations for the tournament and decided that a significant improvement has taken place since the previous inspection in February. The only problem is insufficient progress in the development of airports, hotels and accommodation centers, Listkiewicz said.

With regard to Poland, UEFA questioned whether work on a stadium in the southern city of Chorzów would be finished on time, and said that work on a national stadium in Warsaw was "a high-risk project," Listkiewicz said. Ukraine is coping better with building stadiums, according to the UEFA, but is doing worse with other infrastructure.

Listkiewicz and Hrihoriy Surkis, head of the Ukrainian soccer federation, said in Bordeaux that there was no possibility that either Poland or Ukraine could be forced to organize the tournament with another partner or on their own.

These statements were made in response to media speculation that UEFA might take away the right to host the event from one of the countries, replacing it with a different co-host. Before the Bordeaux meeting, the media speculated that potential replacements could include Italy, Spain, Scotland, Germany or Russia, quoting soccer officials from these countries who said they were ready to either host or co-host the tournament.

Crisis in Warsaw
Meanwhile, another controversy erupted in Warsaw Sept. 29 after Polish sports and tourism minister Mirosław Drzewiecki instituted proceedings that led to the suspension of the PZPN's board.

The Polish Olympic Committee's Court of Sports Arbitration appointed Robert Zawłocki as official "administrator" of the PZPN. Zawłocki suspended the association's board and annulled a plan to hold a PZPN convention Oct. 30 to elect new authorities for the organization. Zawłocki said his decision resulted from "numerous irregularities" in the PZPN's work, including criminal accusations, chiefly involving corruption.

The next day FIFA head Joseph Blatter sent a letter to the Polish government, demanding immediate dismissal of Zawłocki and reinstatement of the PZPN's "legal authorities." If Poland fails to comply with the demand, FIFA said, the Polish national team will by default lose two World Cup qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Slovakia Oct. 11 and 15.

"The internationally recognized authorities of the PZPN must be restored in the headquarters of the federation in order to be able to adequately organize the two 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches," FIFA said in a statement.

FIFA and the European governing body, UEFA, whose rules do not allow government interference in the game, said they do not recognize Zawłocki. The PZPN sent an official request to the Polish Olympic Committee's Court of Sports Arbitration Oct. 3 to remove Zawłocki. The court will examine the issue Oct. 21.
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