When legendary Opera singer, Andrea Bocelli took to the stage in Rome’s iconic Stadio Olimpico last Friday, the football world heaved a sigh of relief. The 2020 UEFA European Championships had officially kicked off, albeit one year later because of the ravaging impact the Covid-19 virus had on the world.
Back in 2012, disgraced former UEFA president and legendary footballer, Michel Platini had announced that Euro 2020 would be a first-of-its-kind tournament; with multiple host cities rather than one host country. He was laughed at 9 nine years, but it is now a reality. Host cities include Rome, Baku, Copenhagen, Bucharest, St. Petersburg, Amsterdam, Seville, Munich, Glasgow, Budapest and London, which would be home to the final to be held at the impressive Wembley Stadium.
There had been calls and criticism of the tournament, with many citing travel and logistical challenges, and with a reduced number of fans at stadiums, the economic impact is sure to be keenly felt, albeit not in a positive manner.
We take a look at these in detail.
Novelty, but not the one we had in mind…
UEFA decided to host the games even without the most ideal of conditions, as it feels it would be good for its countries to have quality tournament experience ahead of next year’s World Cup holding in the oil-rich country of Qatar. In normal times, this would have been a cesspool of income, as the surreal novelty of playing a tournament without a central host will spar excitement, but Covid-19 has made such dreams merely wishes.
Stadiums are at reduced capacity, strict quarantine rules, and test requirements for spectators before they can watch matches have made this Euros feel and look different from what we are used to.
The tourism and hospitality sectors have also taken a huge hit, as there are simply not enough people and fans to tap into.
No central host means divided income
Every host country looks forward to hosting a tournament as it would massively boost its economy. According to a study by Limoges-based Centre for Sports Law and Economy (CDES) and the KENEO agency, Euro 2016 boosted the economy of France by around €1.2 billion ($1.48 billion). While playing in multiple cities had been known for a while, which invariably meant lesser revenue, Covid-19 has made things even more difficult.
Hosting to France made sense economically. They already had the needed infrastructure to adequately host the games, which meant they only had to spend a reported €200 million on upgrades. This, compared to the amount it earned, made a lot of economic sense.
Also, the study showed that the average person spent about eight days in France, with an average daily spend of about €154. It also reported that more than 600,000 visitors stayed in France during that time.
With no central host, host cities have lesser revenue to make from hospitality, with even reduced crowds making it less likely to boost the economy on a wide scale, like France enjoyed 5 years ago.
The Pandemic Blues
Not the moniker of a national team, pandemic blues refer to the lull and gloom associated with this period. There is low-energy, fear and trepidation as well as a growing feeling of uncertainty. These factors have affected the tournament at this time. There are strict quarantine rules all across Europe, meaning fans may not be allowed to watch their favourite teams in the flesh, as would have been possible without a pandemic.
Travelling around summer for many people during a football tournament is a big draw as it allows them experience new cultures, spend time with family and friends as well as watch their team live in action. Covid-19 has made all of this virtually impossible.
Last words: It’s not all doom and gloom for UEFA though
Euro 2021, in terms of revenue won’t measure up to its most recent counterparts, it’s not all bad news for Europe’s football governing body, UEFA. Cities such as Baku, Bucharest, Budapest and other unheralded European cities have all been boosted by hosting matches of the tournament, as it would also help develop their countries from an infrastructural standpoint.
Being granted hosting rights for a major football tournament means that adequate infrastructure in terms of hospitality, transport, and even sport facilities have to be built from scratch or upgraded. These investments can only help in both the economic and sporting sense, as evidenced by Poland, following its co-hosting of the games in 2012 alongside Ukraine.
With 11 host cities, UEFA can lay claim to helping these cities and countries, long after the tournament must have ended.