(Updating with quotes, background)
By Mike Collett
ZAGREB, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Poland and Ukraine were told to act on Wednesday after falling behind in their preparations to host the 2012 European soccer championship.
UEFA President Michel Platini said the next few months were “crucial” for the two countries, while UEFA’s general secretary David Taylor warned: “We need to accelerate the preparations. We need action now to make sure we are on schedule, we don’t need any more committees.”
UEFA did not go as far as saying the co-hosts risked losing the right to stage the tournament but said preparations, including work on stadiums as well as infrastructure surrounding airports, accommodation and transportation, must be improved with governmental backing.
Platini, who is committed to the 16-team tournament being staged in eastern Europe for the first time, added: “I have the distinct feeling that the next four to six months will be crucial in order to avoid any critical slippage in sports and public infrastructure projects and to protect the global credibility of the Euro project itself.”
A full report on Euro 2012, the second biggest event in the sport after the World Cup finals, was the main item on the agenda of a two-day executive committee meeting in the Croatian capital.
In a statement, UEFA said it recognised preparations had suffered because of political instability in the two countries since they were awarded the championship.
Taylor told a news conference: “Since awarding the tournament to Poland and Ukraine in April last year both countries have suffered a certain amount of political instability.
“However, this instability seems to be over but the timescales for getting investment-intensive projects such as stadiums, airports and motorways underway is very, very short and we are concerned at the lack of progress that was being made.”
He said UEFA had not considered any alternative host nation at this stage.
“Certain developments have to be in place before Euro 2008 this summer. We have assurances the two governments are committed to making it work.
“UEFA took a momentous decision in awarding the championship to central and eastern Europe and we are also fully committed to it being staged successfully.”
Polish FA president Michal Listkiewicz told Reuters: “The main conclusion is that we have to speed up our preparations to make up for the time we lost in last year’s political turbulence in both countries. The situation has improved in the last few months and there is no danger of not meeting all the requirements on time.”
Grigoriy Surkis, the president of the Ukraine FA told Reuters: “Unfortunately, a situation has emerged from extraordinary elections in both Poland and Ukraine last year but we are very confident that we will get the project back on track.”
“Both governments and FAs are ready to implement all that is required to organise the Euro 2012 finals in the best possible way.” (Additional reporting by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Alison Wildey)