The UEFA EURO 2016 steering group has met in Paris, unveiling the match schedule and assessing preparations as another milestone was reached on the road to France.
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The UEFA EURO 2016 steering group held its fifth meeting on Thursday, this time at the headquarters of the French Football Federation (FFF) in Paris.
The steering group, which met for the first time in April 2011, brings together the key stakeholders for the event: UEFA, the FFF, the French government and the host cities. The meeting was attended by UEFA President Michel Platini, FFF president Noël Le Graët, EURO 2016 SAS chairman Jacques Lambert and French sports minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem.
The objective of the latest meeting was to finalise the tournament match schedule and to assess the current situation with respect to the tournament's organisation. "On the whole, things are advancing well, especially with regard to the construction and renovation of the stadiums," said Mr Lambert. Ms Vallaud-Belkacem was in agreement: "Today, I have the feeling that we are 'all systems go' as far as the organisation of UEFA EURO 2016 is concerned."
The final tournament will kick off with the opening match featuring hosts France on Friday 10 June at the Stade de France at 21.00CET. The same venue will host the final, which is scheduled for 10 July – the 51st match in what will be the first final tournament to feature 24 teams.
There are no major surprises in the match schedule. The Stade de France will not host a semi-final: Lyon and Marseille are the venues earmarked for those two matches. "We have made a political and financial effort, especially given the higher capacity of the Stade de France, to enable these two great French cities to stage the two semi-finals," explained Mr Platini.
"The match schedule is excellent for the local fans, because they will get the chance to see several teams and matches in and around their region," the UEFA President added. "Fans of a particular team are also now encouraged to travel around France to follow their team and discover the beauty the country has to offer."
This initiative was welcomed by Ms Vallaud-Belkacem, who expressed the wish to "make this UEFA EURO 2016 beyond sporting displays, a popular and unifying experience". It is also with this objective in mind that the ticketing policy – which will be unveiled in spring 2015 – foresees four categories instead of UEFA's customary three, which Mr Lambert said would "provide for an important number of tickets at relatively low prices".
Finally, FFF president Noël Le Graët said: "The association, with its leagues and districts, will have an important budget to ensure that interest is not just confined to the cities where the matches are taking place. In all the 'départments' we will organise important competitions to raise interest and awareness of UEFA EURO 2016. The presentation of the EURO 2016 match schedule this morning shows that we are already at the heart of the action."
UEFA EURO 2016 countdown
September 2014: Qualifying competition kicks off
March 2015: Start of ticket sales
12 December 2015: Final tournament draw in Paris
March 2016: Finalists' workshop
10 June 2016: UEFA EURO 2016 kicks off
10 July 2016: UEFA EURO 2016 final