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2020 European Championships to be held across continent

updated 3:50 PM EST, Thu December 6, 2012
Spain are the reigning European champions, having lifted the trophy at the two previous tournaments
Spain are the reigning European champions, having lifted the trophy at the two previous tournaments
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 2020 European Championships to be played across continent
  • The move is designed to be a one-off event to coincide with tournament's 60th anniversary
  • UEFA stresses that financial strains for a single host nation underpin the decision
  • Cities will start bidding in 2013, with a decision expected in 2014

(CNN) -- The 2020 European Championships will be staged in cities across the continent, rather than just in one host nation, UEFA's executive committee decided on Thursday.

Dubbing the tournament "A Euro for Europe", European football's governing body has ensured the competition will firmly break with tradition as it celebrates what will be its sixtieth year.

Since their inception in 1960, the European Championships have been regularly staged by just one country -- with three tournaments having been co-hosted (2000, 2008 and 2012).

"Let me say that it is a decision only about 2020," UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino told his organization's website. "2020 is the 60th anniversary of the European Football Championship."

"It is premature to go into more details. What is clear is that it will not be in one or two countries, but in several cities in Europe. How many cities is still to be decided."

Spain fans react to Euro 2012 win
Spain celebrates historic Euro 2012 win
Spain win Euro 2012, 4-0 over Italy

In June, UEFA president Michel Platini was quoted as saying the tournament could be staged in 12-13 cities.

On Thursday, Infantino added that the bidding process for host cities will start early next year and is expected to take around 12 months, with a decision expected in 2014.

All but one of UEFA's 53 member nations supported the idea, with Turkey -- which had initially bid to host the 2020 finals alongside Azerbaijan and Georgia -- the lone dissenting voice.

The Republic of Ireland, Scotland and Wales have already expressed interest in staging matches, with the latter FA stating that it "fully supports UEFA's decision and continues to explore avenues by which to bring the UEFA tournament to Wales" on its website.

The UEFA general secretary also explained that there was a strong possibility that not all the host countries would qualify for the tournament, saying this was something that would be "thought about and looked at".

The idea of spreading the tournament across the continent was first mooted after this year's European Championships by Platini, who suggested it as a way of avoiding high costs at a time of financial uncertainty in many countries.

Fiscal concerns became of greater importance after UEFA chose to expand the tournament from 16 to 24 teams, the number that France will host when the country stages the next finals in 2016.

"Obviously the fact that the (championships) will feature 24 teams instead of 16 puts an additional burden on countries to host such an event," said Infantino. "It becomes much more difficult for many countries -- the requirements are becoming bigger and bigger.

"An opportunity like this, to give many cities and many countries the possibility to host even just one part of a EURO, is certainly an excellent thing, especially in times when you have an economic situation where you cannot expect countries to invest in facilities in the way that such an event requires.

"Certainly one of the purposes of this decision is to help countries, who are perhaps not sure today whether they should build a national stadium -- giving them the impetus to build such a stadium.

"Instead of having a party in one country, we will have a party all over Europe in the summer of 2020."

Reigning champions Spain will have the chance to defend their title at the 2016 European Championships, when France will stage the finals for the third time -- using 10 host cities in the process.

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