Uefa: Turkey's lack of human rights action plan for Euro 2024 a concern
By Callum Murray
The absence of an action plan for human rights in Turkey’s bid to host Euro 2024, soccer’s European Championships in that year, was today described in an evaluation report published by Uefa, European soccer’s governing body as “a matter of concern.”
The issue is one of a handful of concerns flagged up in the report in relation to Turkey’s bid, while Germany’s rival bid is given a relatively clean bill of health, although it does not completely escape criticism.
No mention is made in the report of revenue projections for each bid, while the figures contained in the respective (publicly-available) bid books have also been redacted “for confidentiality reasons.” Uefa told Sportcal today: “As the majority of revenues for a EURO stems from the centralised sponsorship and media rights sales, this is not part of the bid requirements and therefore also not part of the evaluation report.”
Uefa’s executive committee is set to select the host country on 27 September.
For the first time in a bidding process, Uefa has stipulated that hosts must meet specified criteria related to human rights, guided by United Nations conventions and its association with the Sport and Rights Alliance.In relation to human rights, the report quotes Turkey’s bid book, which states that “the Turkish government confirms its continuous support on human rights matters and that since 2000 a comprehensive reform was implemented to ensure the full respect of fundamental freedoms and rights.”
This claim is likely to be disputed by human rights groups such as Amnesty International, which have repeatedly raised concerns about the government of president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan since an attempted coup in 2016 prompted a government crackdown on civil servants and civil society.
Turkey is ranked in only 84th place (out of 159, with Germany in 16th place and Syria occupying bottom position) in last year’s Human Freedom Index, co-published by the Fraser Institute, the Liberales Institut at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, and the Cato Institute, which offers a ‘global measurement of personal, civil and economic freedom'.
Uefa’s evaluation report says that the supposed comprehensive reform “is described as based on three stages: adhering to fundamental international human rights conventions, making legislative changes as they become necessary, creating processes to fully implement and measure the performance of the reforms.”
However, it warns that, “no specific project related to the EURO tournament to ensure the protection of human rights was presented.”
Conversely, the German bid is described as being “of high quality and comfortably meets overall expectations when it comes to political aspects, social responsibility, sustainability and human rights.”
In May, the Turkish Football Federation claimed that a 2024 Uefa European Championships held in Turkey would attract eyeballs globally and garner greater revenues from rights-holders and sponsors because of the country’s location in the world.
However, the TFF failed to back up the claims with any commercial projections of what a tournament in Turkey would actually bring Uefa.
Turkey Under the heading ‘Vision’, the report says of Turkey’s bid: “Hosting the tournament in 2024 will further mark the end of the 100-year anniversary celebrations of both Turkey and the football federation.
“Overall, the bidder presents a motivational, attractive and high-quality vision.”
The bid proposes to stage the tournament in 10 stadia which, collectively, offer an aggregate net capacity of about 2.49 million seats over the 51 matches, according to the proposed match schedule. Seven of the stadia - Bursa, Eskişehir, Gaziantep, Istanbul (Ali Sami Yen), Kocaeli, Konya, Trabzon - “offer existing infrastructure at a good level,” the report says, while the remaining three - Ankara, Antalya and Istanbul Atatürk - need to be “rebuilt fully or will undergo major renovations.”
The report adds: “It should be noted that the renovation works for Istanbul Atatürk Olympics need to be suspended and commissioned to host the UEFA Champions League Final in May 2020. Depending on the timeline chosen, this could be a risk either for the UEFA Champions League Final 2020 or for the UEFA EURO 2024.”
Under the heading, ‘Host City mobility’, the report also identifies as a risk plans to undertake work to enhance the country’s transport infrastructure network at national and city level by 2024, adding that this is especially the case “in combination with the dependence on a few airports for international and domestic travel.”
However, this section concludes: “The candidate Host Cities of Kocaeli, Konya, Bursa and Eskişehir will meet the requirements if the planned transport infrastructure works are completed on time and with additional temporary measures and services.”
Similarly, what is described as “the limited hotel capacity in many cities” (Istanbul and Antalya are exceptions) is described as “a matter of concern,” while under the heading ‘Commercial Matters’, the report points out: “There are legal restrictions on the advertising of tobacco, alcoholic products, gambling and betting. The restriction on alcoholic products might be a potential conflict if a sponsorship agreement is signed with a beer company.”
This is Turkey’s fourth attempt at hosting Uefa’s showpiece national teams tournament. It bid unsuccessfully for Euro 2012, which was ultimately awarded to Poland and Ukraine, and then lost out by a single vote to France for the hosting rights to Euro 2016, the first to feature 24 nations.
Four years ago, the TFF surprisingly pulled out of the race to host the final matches at Euro 2020, which are being staged in cities across the continent, saying that it wanted to focus instead on a campaign for the country to win the right to stage the whole of the 2024 tournament.
Germany Under the heading ‘Vision’, the report points out that a European Championships in Germany would mark the first time the event will have been held in the “unified country” since East and West Germany combined in 1990 (West Germany staged the tournament in 1988).
It adds: “Overall, the bidder presents a motivational, creative and very professional vision.”
The bid proposes to use 10 stadia, all of which are existing and operational, albeit all 10 would undergo specific upgrades in spring 2024 to ensure that they comply with the tournament requirements. The stadia are located in Berlin, Cologne, Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Gelsenkirchen, Hamburg, Leipzig, Munich and Stuttgart.
The aggregate net capacity of the stadia for the 51 matches is higher than Turkey’s, at 2.78 million.
Under the heading ‘Mobility’, the report warns that airport capacity and public transport accessibility is “slightly under requirements,” and that “Enhancements, either legacy or temporary, will be needed” for Leipzig’s allocated airport.
Hotel capacity is generally judged to be plentiful, with the exception of Dortmund. However, the report says: “The camp sites and short-term rental locations mentioned by the bidder as alternative accommodation possibilities would certainly be sufficient to minimise the impact of the lack of hotel rooms in Dortmund.”
Under the heading ‘Commercial Matters’, the report says: “The commercial sector of the bid provides very good support of UEFA’s commercial programme, with sufficient advertising space to be granted free of charge in the key areas, for UEFA and its commercial partners.
“There are legal restrictions on the advertising of tobacco, medicines, gambling and betting in Germany. There is no restriction on alcoholic products.”
Germany has relatively recent experience of staging a major international soccer tournament, as host of the Fifa World Cup in 2006.