The much anticipated and slightly delayed Euro 2020 competition is now behind us. A festival of football descended on the UK, Poland, and right across the continent, as nations tried to shake off the woes of recent years in their quest to be crowned the greatest footballing country in Europe. As predicted, fans were incredibly enthused by Euro 2020, with hundreds of thousands getting tickets to watch games in stadiums and others cheering their team on from elsewhere. Betting was also popular, with markets like the tournament’s top goalscorer seeing the biggest volume of bets.
The favourite, Cristiano Ronaldo, led the tournament from early on, but Portugal’s early departure from the competition following their 1-0 defeat against Belgium in Seville gave other players the opportunity to catch up.
But with the final whistle blown, stands cleared, and the fans safely back at home, host nations and UEFA are reviewing the tournament, its unique format, and the impact it has had.
Euro 2020 - A Unique Approach
Euro 2020 was unlike any other UEFA European Championship in the past. Apart from being held a year late, it was also the first competition hosted right across the continent rather than being focused on one area.
Of course, the Euros have been hosted in more than one country at a time. Poland and Ukraine shared the hosting duties back in 2012, as did Austria and Switzerland four years earlier, while Belgium and the Netherlands were the first to jointly host the competition in 2000.
There’s also precedent with the FIFA World Cup since Mexico, the USA, and Canada will be sharing responsibility for organising the 2026 World Cup.
However, Euro 2020 was significantly different. Rather than being hosted in two neighbouring countries, the games were hosted more than 1,000 miles apart in 11 different host cities, from Glasgow to Baku, and from Seville to Saint Petersburg.
The official reason given for this set-up was that it would be a special celebration of the 60th anniversary of the European Championship which was first hosted in 1960. However, some have speculated that it was due to few realistic bids being submitted for a single host due to the financial climate when the plans were drawn up in 2012.
The logistics of hosting such a large competition across an entire continent were daunting. The eyes of the world would be on Euro 2020, which meant 11 broadcasting teams would be needed across the continent, all with direct connections to a central broadcasting hub.
It required different arrangements for security, spectator entry requirements, and support teams. It also meant that teams would need to do much more travelling, with some teams having to travel thousands of miles between games.
For example, Group A contained Turkey, Italy, Wales, and Switzerland, but games were played in the Olympic Stadium in Baku and the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. There are nearly 4,000 km (2,400 miles) between the two cities, a distance several times longer than 1,000 km (621 miles) between Lille and Marseille, which hosted games in 2016.
The Benefits to Britain
The UK has the second-largest football stadium in Europe. Wembley can fit around 90,000 fans to watch a match, while Barcelona’s Camp Nou can accommodate almost 10,000 more. It’s also considered the home of football in England, the country that invented the sport.
It’s also well connected to the rest of the continent, with London’s six airports and Eurostar providing easy access from all of Europe. The capital is also the focal point of the rail network in Great Britain, meaning it’s also convenient for local fans to travel to.
This made it an ideal candidate to host the final of Euro 2020, as well as other games in the tournament.
For the UK, this also means the hundreds of millions of football fans that will tune in to watch the competition’s winner be decided, providing several hours of free advertising for the country and its capital.
Glasgow also hosted a couple of group stage games, giving Scotland’s biggest city similar exposure.
The cost of the UK's role in the tournament is relatively low, with no new stadiums constructed, and no new transport infrastructure required to accommodate fans. In contrast, Poland had to build several new airports, including one in the capital to accommodate fans heading to Euro 2012.
This also means that the UK doesn’t have any of the long-term benefits that infrastructure investment can deliver, but public transport and airports are already well developed in London and Glasgow.
Despite the low costs, the UK still benefits greatly from the competition. Newspapers recently reported that the tournament could provide a £1 billion boost to the economy, in part from fans travelling to see the game in person, but also in the sale of new televisions, barbecues, food, furniture, and football merchandise. When you factor in the increase in drinks sales, that figure is likely to be nearly £2 billion.
These benefits are not exclusive to the United Kingdom, as other countries hosting games have also benefited greatly from their part.
However, the pan-continental format has come with some downsides.
From an economic perspective, sharing the responsibilities also means that the media focus, influx of tourists, and spending of visitors is shared between the countries. In 2016, France reportedly added around £1.2 billion to its economy just from foreign fans attending the tournament.
There is an environmental cost too. Teams, journalists, officials, and fans are having to travel further. Assuming fans can overcome the additional logistic problems that come with travelling between countries, they could fly several thousands of kilometres across Europe to follow their teams.
Thankfully, England fans got to enjoy four straight home games in Wembley at the start of the tournament before having to head to Rome for the quarter-finals, but this wasn’t the case for most other teams.
According to the BBC, this means some fans could end up emitting an additional 4,000kg of CO2 through travelling. That’s just under half of the entire annual emissions of the average Brit.
UEFA has already offset the carbon emissions through various programmes.
On balance, the UK benefits greatly from its role as host of Euro 2020 games. From an economic standpoint, it means the spoils have to be shared with other countries, but this also means less cost and, therefore, risk has been taken on by the nation.