Martin Kallen, UEFA Operations Director for 2012, says he’s happy with preparations for the championship in Ukraine
Busy with Euro 2012 preparations, catching Mr. Kallen on one spot is next to impossible. Currently, he lives between Switzerland, Poland and Ukraine. The Ukrainian Week was lucky enough to interview him during one of his inspection tours in Kyiv.
U.W.: Earlier, The Ukrainian Week studied a bill that entailed a special procedure for importing and exporting goods for Euro 2012. It lists numerous commodities that have nothing to do with football (see http://ukrainianweek.com/Investigation/27600). If passed, can UEFA guarantee that someone will not use this law as a loophole for smuggling scams?
We’ve had a guarantee from the government to simplify the procedure to import and export goods for sponsors and broadcasters. These and some equipment are necessary for Euro 2012. It’s not easy to bring goods into Ukraine and re-export them later. For instance, TV channels have some cameras they need to bring in and later leave the country with. We just want to make the process easier for this period of three months, from April to July 2012. It’s a normal standard procedure in the EU and we’re really looking forward to a simplified administrative process here.
U.W.: Some people who applied for the ticket lottery failed to get the tickets. One of our colleagues got a confirmation of his application after the payment deadline had passed. Therefore, he would not be able to buy the tickets he won. Where is the guarantee that the lost tickets won’t go on to the black market?
Don’t worry. This must have been an error. We have a transparent and high-quality ticket sales system. A lot of people are working on it. Issues come up all the time when we deal with over 1,200,000 tickets. We cannot make 100% sure that no tickets will leak on to the black market. But our system is good enough, although we’re currently working on an issue or two. The tickets will be printed in spring next year and sent to their owners over April and May.
U.W.: Some cities in Ukraine have too few hotels to accommodate all championship visitors. Plans for Donetsk, for instance, are to place them in college dormitories, resorts or even tents.
Yes, we don’t have enough accommodation, especially in Donetsk. This has been known since the beginning. The city is working on dormitories and camping sites etc. The most important point here is to have a good transport system to reach these places. Fans that have clean safe areas that are not too costly will be more than happy.
U.W.: Ukraine currently has four or five world-class sport bases in Donetsk, Kharkiv, Kyiv and Lviv. Where will other national teams be accommodated?
The catalogue of training grounds in Ukraine lists 17 and some teams have spent the last year touring and seeing where they could go for Euro 2012. They have some top options in Ukraine and Poland. By mid December they will make up their minds. Training grounds in Donetsk, Kyiv and Kharkiv meet top European standards.
U.W.: The final cost of the Kyiv Olympic Stadium renovation was UAH 4.6bn (USD 575mn). Is it normal for European countries to spend so much money on reconstruction?
That’s a difficult question. European stadiums can be much more expensive. But they’ve done a fantastic stadium. We’re happy with it.
U.W.: News has surfaced recently that the newly-built D terminal at Boryspil airport will be closed down for reconstruction right after Euro 2012 as the initial plan had some failures. Does UEFA control infrastructure projects in Ukraine?
We’re not responsible for the construction of airports or stadiums. We have our requirements to the people responsible and we give our advice when requested. We’re not specialists in airports. But we check to see if they fulfill the requirements we have for football tournaments.
U.W.: Does UEFA control the process of training volunteers? Do you think volunteers and other Euro 2012 staff will be ready to help foreign fans?
We have three groups of staff. One is volunteers recruited by the local committee. Mr. Bantser is responsible for this. He’s doing a great job in cooperation with us and the Polish party. I can guarantee that the training will be at a very high level and volunteers will get a great experience at Euro 2012. The volunteers at host cities are the responsibility of the cities themselves. They are mostly looking for students who speak foreign languages and will be able to help foreign guests that don’t understand Ukrainian. As for the stewards, we’re closely working together with the football federations of Poland and Ukraine that are responsible for security inside the official tournament sites. Outside security is the responsibility of the government and the authorities of host cities. Stewards will still be trained under an international program set up by UEFA for the next four to five months. We already have two stadiums that are operating in Donetsk and Kharkiv. Donbas Arena is state of the art and operates at the top European level. Kharkiv stadium is at a good level too, and improving all the time.
U.W.: When Ukraine won the right to host Euro 2012 many expected private investors would take over the largest portion of the preparation burden. Eventually, up to 90% of the cost fell on the taxpayers’ shoulders. Why have infrastructure projects for the championship failed to attract investors?
I think there are private investors. Mr. Akhmetov, for instance, funded 100% of the Donetsk stadium construction. In Kharkiv Mr. Yaroslavsky invested USD 300mn into the stadium, airport terminal and hotels. Investors, including foreign ones, have invested a lot into hotels. Finding investors for stadiums abroad is a challenging task unless they are linked to other projects such as shopping malls. In Switzerland there are shopping malls and office centers built around the stadiums. This guarantees return on investment. A stadium alone without commercial components will hardly repay the invested money because games and other events don’t occur there every day. Initially, Lviv had some private investors that wanted to invest their funds into the arena but an agreement has never been reached. The same thing happened with the airport, so eventually it took public investment. Most public investment went to airports, roads and stadiums in Kyiv and Lviv.
U.W.: What are some major challenges Ukrainian host cities are facing?
Ukrainian host cities have done a lot in terms of preparation compared to two years ago. I’m very satisfied at where we are. However, there is still some work to do. Donetsk has to complete its airport terminal. The airport in Kharkiv is more or less ready. There is just the runway to finish and I hope this will happen by the end of this year. Next year, they will have to deal with the control tower. Operations should be the main focus in all airports. Terminal D is very important for the image of Kyiv. Terminal B has also undergone complete renovation and now looks completely different both inside and outside. Lviv still has a lot of work on the new runway and the area but I think everything will be finished by March-April. The main issue for me in Lviv is their transport. They have a good plan and only need to implement it now. They have to accelerate the process because Lviv is now the only city where the stadium is 10 km outside the city center and public transport is crucial there.
U.W.: Denis Oleynikov (the owner of ProstoPrint was forced to flee Ukraine. He claims he has been persecuted for printing T-shirts with political slogans, while the shirts with Euro 2012 symbols which the police said he had no right to use were actually commissioned to him by the police – ed.) said he visited UEFA headquarters and sent a letter to Michel Platini’s advisor with his vision of the situation that has led to the shutting down of his company in Ukraine. Do you know anything about how the UEFA administration responded to that?
We sent a letter to Mr. Oleynikov asking him to stop speculating on the UEFA brand and the whole story started. It’s a normal process. We send 200-300 letters like this at every championship. We always look to protect the rights of our partners who have paid for using the logo and the brand. For us this case is closed.