LAUSANNE (Reuters) - The European Championship in 2020 will be staged in cities across the continent to spread the financial load of hosting the tournament, European football's governing body UEFA said on Thursday.
Three of the last four championships have been staged in two countries although it is traditionally held in one.
"Instead of a party in one country, you will have a party all over Europe," said UEFA secretary general Gianni Infantino after an executive committee meeting.
The idea was first aired by UEFA president Michel Platini at the end of Euro 2012. UEFA said it had consulted its member associations and received an "extremely positive" response, with Turkey the only one of its 53 members to oppose the idea.
"The UEFA 2020 finals tournament will be staged across the continent in various major cities through Europe following a decision taken today," said Infantino.
The cost of hosting the tournament, which will increase from 16 to 24 teams in 2016, had been a major factor in the decision, Infantino said.
"Obviously, the economic burden to the country at this time is an important element," he said.
"One of the purposes of this decision is to help countries who are maybe not sure today whether they should build, or not, a national stadium, to give them this impetus." France will host the 2016 tournament.
The bidding process for 2020 host cities will start early next year and will take around 12 months. Decisions on the host countries are expected in the spring of 2014, Infantino told reporters.
"It (2020) is the 60th anniversary of the European football championship - obviously the fact that the Euro moves to 24 teams bears additional burdens on the host nations, the requirements are becoming bigger and bigger.
"It is a decision only about 2020, it is not going forward forever," he said. "Today, everything is open."
Infantino said all the logistical issues would be addressed in the next few months, such as whether groups would be concentrated in one or two venues close to each other or whether they would be spread out across the continent.
"If groups are going to be in different countries, then ideally they should not be too far away," he said.
Infantino accepted that not all the host countries would qualify for the tournament. "This would have to be thought about and looked at," he said.
(Editing by Robert Woodward)