Recent comments made by Michel Platini have forced Tomasz Mortimer to look at the state of the game in Hungary. Troubling times lie ahead...
As recently as last month, the top dog at UEFA, Michel Platini, visited the Hungarian Football Federation to discuss “European football challenges”. This involved Hungary’s recent Euro 2012 bid, how the financial crisis is affecting football and betting irregularities which has become something of a regular occurrence within Hungarian football in recent times.
The MLSZ (Hungarian Football Federation) informed the Frenchman of the recent overhaul of the National Federation where new investment and future programmes will be invested heavily as part of the OLLÉ programme.
These talks appeared to be reasonably productive in which Hungary rolled out the current Prime Minister and former semi-professional footballer, Viktor Orbán for the so called “crisis talks”. But even though Platini was quoted as saying “I am glad to say that we have had very fruitful discussions” earlier in the year, he also spoke words that made Hungarians realise how bad the current footballing situation really is.
This came after Platini, in May, gave an interview to the German FA proposing an idea that Germany together with Hungary could host the tournament if the problems with the Ukrainian stadia continued. But by August, once the Ukrainian problem had dissolved these dreaded words were uttered, “Hungary won’t be able to host one European Championship game, never mind a whole tournament.”
Even though back in May Platini should have never brought up the issue of Hungary co-hosting the tournament, it poses serious questions over what the MLSZ have been doing for the past 10 + years, as Euro 2012 was not the first time Hungary have bid for the Euro’s. The 2012 bid was in fact the third consecutive bid, after failed attempts for Euro 2004 and Euro 2008.
To be fair, the whole 2012 bid wasn’t helped as the Hungarian Football Federation was in complete turmoil which lacked 6 board members and a president after a dispute over whether Lothar Matthaeus should have been appointed Hungary manager.
If Hungary were successful with their Euro 2012 bid, the Hungarian government would have spent €637m on upgrading stadiums and developing infrastructure across the country even when the nation was struggling with a huge budget deficit. This was hit with huge criticism from the Hungarian public, but the President of Sport, Atilla Abraham said, “The Puskás Ferenc stadion would have to be renovated sooner or later.” Well we’re now 7 years on from this quote and the state of the stadium is in a disgusting condition and hasn’t been refurbished for years.
But it’s not only the national stadium that’s not up to standard, pretty much every top tier stadium in Hungary is as bad as a 7th tier English side, with capacity’s on average less than 10,000. Take champions Debrecen, their stadium, “Stadion Oláh Gábor Ut” holds just 10,200 and therefore cannot be used for European games. This means the team has to travel over 200km to play their games in the national stadium in Budapest. Not the ideal preparation for games when you’re about to take on European giants like Liverpool, PSV, Sampdoria etc.
With the poor state of stadia, this obviously results in low attendances across the country. Last season’s attendances dropped to a staggering 2,564 on average across the league, which therefore affects the income for the clubs and obviously a lack funds to bring in better players or keep existing quality within the ranks.
These incredibly bad facts make you wonder how on Earth Hungary believed they had a chance of hosting the European Championships, not just back in 2004, 2008 or 2012 but even in 2020 where they seem to be planning to launch another bid which will waste more MLSZ money that they simply cannot afford to be spending.
So after another stupid year with the MLSZ chasing another impossible chance of holding a major competition not just in 2012 but in 2020, the Federation need to put in the real work and start to rebuild Hungarian club and national football. By performing well in Europe, both for the Hungarian club sides and most importantly the national team this will boost attendances across the country and bring in more income for the clubs. Then the stadia can be improved or rebuilt and only then Hungary should concentrate on hosting tournaments, but until then it’ll only be a pipe dream.
You can get the latest updates from Hungary by following Tomasz on twitter@HungariaFootbal