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Thursday, September 25, 2008
Beckenbauer: Euros to swell to 24 teams

Patrick Vignal

BORDEAUX, France, Sept 25 (Reuters) - European championship finals will feature 24 teams instead of 16 from 2016, senior UEFA committee member Franz Beckenbauer said on Thursday.

'It has been agreed, it will be announced at a news conference tomorrow,' German Beckenbauer told Reuters.

The former World Cup-winning captain and coach, who is also a member of FIFA's executive committee, said the expansion was endorsed on the first day of a two-day meeting of the executive committee of European soccer's governing body.

The decision was expected, despite criticism that it could dilute the quality of the event, after senior officials of all 53 UEFA member nations backed the idea in June.

UEFA president Michel Platini said at the June meeting that increasing the size would not necessarily diminish the quality of the competition.

The first five finals were staged as four-team events from 1960 until 1976 before being increased to eight teams in 1980.

The first 16-team finals were held in 1996, but pressure has since come from some countries to make the event bigger still.

The expansion means nearly half of UEFA's 53 members will take part in the finals from 2016.

Poland and Ukraine's lack of progress in preparing to host Euro 2012 will be examined at the Bordeaux meeting on Friday.

Platini has visited Poland and Ukraine twice this year and warned officials that they risked losing the right to stage the event if stadiums and infrastructure were not ready.

UEFA, however, was expected to stand by its decision to choose the two countries as hosts.

Changes to organisational arrangements for UEFA club competitions for the next three years and the launch of an investigation unit aimed at protecting the integrity of the game are also on a busy agenda.

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