Euro 2020 with 12 host cities … but why
For the briefest moment it looked like logic and wisdom might prevail.
But UEFA, doing the right thing, turned out to be an imaginative idea in the end.
A week ago, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, CEO of Bayern Munich, said that UEFA was considering reducing the Euro 2020 planned for next summer to one host country instead of 12 across the continent.
Rummenigge told the German newspaper Münchner Merkur / TZ: “This particular tournament took place when the corona virus did not exist.” In fact, the idea was to spread the wealth in an abundance of games across the continent. The logistics and pollution caused by all of these trips were reason enough to be skeptical. And then a pandemic broke out, exacerbated early on by football-related travel.
Surely UEFA would reconsider its plans to force teams to hop across the continent – not to mention potential fans – as the pandemic had already pushed the tournament back a year and probably won’t be over by summer. A cut in the euro would make things easier and safer and reduce the burden on players and host cities.
Instead of forcing eleven cities already struggling with a pandemic to host just four games apiece (London will host leg 7) and building significant COVID security infrastructure and protocols, reducing the number of cities would do some Liberate cities and make better use of other people’s investments. And there are many European countries that are able to run the tournament on their own, reducing cross-border travel and potential infections.
“I know that the UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin, who is incredibly careful with Corona, is thinking about whether it would not make more sense at these times to play the tournament in just one country,” said Rummenigge.
UEFA had a meeting on Wednesday, plugged its ears, closed its eyes and shouted, “Lalalalala!” over all appeals to do what is reasonable.
“UEFA has reiterated its commitment to hold the EURO in all 12 cities according to the schedule already published,” the board said in a statement. “All parties recognize the need to have flexibility in making decisions about the arrangements for the tournament to accommodate the different challenges and circumstances of the cities.”
This flexibility did not apply to the inclusion of the host cities. Rather, it was reserved for determining the number of fans that would be accommodated for the games. A decision on what percentage of capacity would be allowed, which is between 100 percent and zero, has been postponed to April.
“The EURO is the flagship of national team football in Europe and an important source of funding for the base and further development of football,” said Ceferin in the statement. “I’m optimistic that things about the virus will most likely be very different as we get closer to the tournament and it is important that we give the host cities and governments as much time as possible to get an accurate picture of it creation will be possible in June and July. “
What this claim about funding ignores is that most of the money comes from television deals, which are unaffected by the absence of fans. With most tickets being sold before the pandemic, UEFA would have to spend a significant amount on refunds.
So not only will UEFA refuse to limit the size of its tournament, but it would also like to see if it can manage to honor some tickets instead of paying them back. No matter that Europe is currently still a huge COVID hotspot and that the tournament extends from Baku to Dublin and from St. Petersburg to Bilbao.
UEFA is hiding behind the faint possibility that warmer weather and a critical mass of vaccines administered will save it by June 11, when Turkey and Italy open the tournament in Rome as a cover for a nakedly reckless scheme.
Even without fans, there is no good reason to keep the tournament expanding. If the fans are to be disappointed anyway, this is all the more reason to reduce them to maybe three cities in the immediate vicinity. Or even one. London could handle the tournament on its own. So could the northern half of Spain or Italy. Or the German Ruhr area. Or several clusters in France.
Obviously that would make too much sense. For UEFA’s top administrators, hopes of a return to normalcy this summer, and above all to normal sources of income, are all too tempting. It would rather wait a little longer and see no matter how much money these plans cost.
Because UEFA is not being bothered by the pandemic that has devastated its continent, infecting 32 million Europeans and killing 702,000 of them. And rising.
Leander Schaerlaeckens is a columnist at Emox News and a lecturer in sports communications at Marist College. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.
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