UEFA chief, Michel Platini, will be in Istanbul today, paying a visit to see how preparations are going for the UEFA Cup final to be played here May 20. The good news is that organizers are upbeat as Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium is almost ready to host the final.
Four years after the Champions League final at Atatürk Stadium, Istanbul is preparing to host another major European final.
Hosting such high-profile matches is an important step for Turkey, who wants to prove that it is worthy hosting the 2016 European Football Championship.
However, the event’s Project Manager Orhan Gorbon believes that hosting the final may have even more important consequences than that.
"I believe this event will contribute to Turkey’s path to becoming an EU member," Gorbon, the head of the 12-strong committee picked by the Turkish Football Federation, said. "The success of this event is really important for Turkey’s image."
Four teams left
Currently there are four teams contending for a spot in the final: Ukraine’s Dynamo Kiev and Shakhtar Donetsk alongside German sides Werder Bremen and Hamburger SV.
The final will also be the last of this competition. Next year the UEFA Cup will be replaced by the Europa League, and for the semifinalists, it will be a special honor to be a part of the whole tournament’s finale. While the teams are striving passionately to be a part of the event, the event committee may even be as excited as them.
Despite its ultra-modern look and reputation as being one of Turkey’s most modern football grounds, the Saracoğlu Stadium still needed a 2-million-lira makeover.
"True, this is one of the best stadiums in Turkey, Fenerbahçe Chairman Aziz Yıldırım miraculously built this place," said Gorbon. "But on the other hand, it is not that modern when looked through UEFA’s eyes.
"The belief that this stadium is modern is a local expression. It is modern for Turkey, but was insufficient for UEFA," he added. "A stadium’s modernity is not particularly seen with the fact that it looks good, its comfort and functionality is crucial, too." He also explained that UEFA was paying attention to the smallest details.
"At the end of the day, Chelsea played [a Champions League game last year] at this stadium," Gorbon said. "But UEFA is so attentive that football’s brand value keeps increasing. That is why it makes its plans so that not one single journalist watching the game gets wet should it rain that day."
UEFAto get the biggest slice of the cake
Although being hosted at a Turkish stadium, this is a UEFA event and the governing body will get the biggest slice of the cake.
"This is UEFA’s toy, so it will get the income from ticket sales, sponsorship deals and broadcasting rights," explained Gorbon. However, he highlighted the many other benefits Turkish football would receive and that needs to be mentioned.
The Federation will receive a total of 1.35 million Swiss francs and 30 percent of revenue from ticket sales will be paid by UEFA at the end of this exhausting work.
"There will be about 40,000 foreigners coming to Istanbul, 120 planes will arrive in the city for the game," he added. "The 2005 Champions League final contributed 150 million liras to Turkey’s economy and this year’s final will add up to 100 million."
Needless to say the promotional boost it will provide for Turkey’s international reputation if all goes according to plan May 20 and, before that, during Platini’s visit. But the event committee and Gorbon believe they have done their job well, and do not need to cross their fingers.