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Turkey, Switzerland, France end Euro 2020 bids

By Ken Ferris

LONDON (Reuters) - Turkey, Switzerland and France have pulled out of the race to host matches at Euro 2020, which will be held in 13 venues around the continent, their soccer federations said on Friday.

Istanbul was among the favorites to stage the final and semi-finals but Turkey withdrew because it wanted to host the whole tournament rather than sharing it with other cities and would bid for the Euro 2024 finals instead.

In a radical departure from traditional formats, European soccer's governing body UEFA has decided to spread the 2020 tournament around its member associations to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the European Championship.

Friday was the deadline for countries to hand in their bid dossiers to UEFA, with the venues to be chosen in September.

The Turkish Football Federation said on its website: "We will soon have the 13 stadiums that suit the capacity criteria of the European Football Championship.

"That being the case, Turkey is in a position to host the whole tournament by itself with its communication infrastructure, travelling and accommodation opportunities and above all, passion for football.

"For this reason our board today decided not to bid for the semi-final and final games of Euro 2020."

The Swiss, who had put forward Basel as their proposed venue, co-hosted Euro 2008 with Austria and said they thought this would reduce their chances of being awarded matches.

"We felt that countries which have hosted the European Championship in the last 12 years had, at the very best, a very slight chance of being considered for Euro 2020," said SFV president Peter Gilleron in a statement.

"We didn't want to spend unnecessary money on the Swiss/Basel candidacy and put a lot of wasted effort into specific projects," added SFV general secretary Alex Miescher.

WISE DECISION

France decided not to put Lyon forward as a candidate city for Euro 2020 because the country is already hosting the 2016 edition.

"In the name of solidarity ... I would like to tell UEFA president Michel Platini we are going to drop our bid," French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet told a news conference.

"2016 is a beautiful present to France ... it's normal we leave the opportunity to other European cities and countries for 2020."

Platini was quoted as saying: "I'm satisfied with this wise decision".

Earlier this week, Czech Republic and Euro 2012 co-hosts Poland pulled out of the bidding for 2020 while Belgium confirmed it would put Brussels forward as a candidate city.

Last September, 32 countries, ranging from Finland and Sweden to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Macedonia and Kazakhstan along with soccer heavyweights Germany, England, Spain and Italy, declared interest in staging matches at Euro 2020.

Each of the countries can present up to two bids, one for a package of three group matches and a round of 16 or quarter-final game, and one for the special package of the two semi-finals and a final.

Only one city can be appointed per country.

The required stadium capacities would be 70,000 for the semi-finals and final, 60,000 for the quarter-finals and 50,000 for the group stage and round of 16 matches. Two exceptions will be made where 30,000 capacity stadiums would be permitted.

The decision to stage the semi-finals and final in the same venue takes the competition back to its early days when a four-team final stage was played.

The full tournament format was started at the 1980 championship held in Italy.

(Writing by Ken Ferris; reporting by Brian Homewood in Zurich, Gregory Blachier in Paris and Ece Toksabay in Istanbul, editing by Tony Jimenez)

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