Euro 2020: Has Platini’s folly been a success?

COVID-19 will prevent UEFA and analysts from really judging if Euro 2020 has been an overwhelming success. The multi-centre structure, spreading the joy across Europe, was a controversial decision by UEFA and appeared to be doomed to failure, but the restrictions placed upon the competition and the ongoing economic pressure of the pandemic, may render any analysis quite limited in value.

From a playing perspective, Euro 2020 has been a genuine success. There has rarely been a poor game, there’s been a lot of edge-of-the-seat tension, some terrific goals and a number of classic clashes. There may have been a lack of great individual stars, but the team ethic and dogged pragmatism has come to the fore. England and Italy were the best teams on show, so their place in the final is appropriate and earned.

With crowd restrictions and covid precautions, the possibility of creating the “carnival” aspect of a major tournament was compromised. Every World Cup or Euro has an element of the scout jamboree about it. That said, the scenes at some improvised and organised fan areas look to have thrown covid caution to the wind.

Some countries had to travel – why Baku keeps getting garlanded is something a mystery – while others had no small amount of home advantage – England, Spain, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Russia. Seeding by location.

UEFA will have factored revenue dispersal long before before 2020, but the pandemic was surely a huge blow to even the most conservative balance sheet predictions.

Euro 2016, delivered a € 1.2 billion benefit to the French economy, while UEFA themselves made € 847 million. France welcomed 600,000 overseas visitors across its hotel sector in 2016. In 2012, Poland and Ukraine also saw an influx of tourists (Poland had 766,000 visitors) but the Poles spent heavily to host the event. UEFA made € 347 million in 2012. In under 30 years, the European Championships have grown impressively – in 1992, for example, revenues totalled just € 41 million. 

Two years later, Russia claimed the 2018 World Cup earned € 12.2 billion from a competition that many sceptics said would not attract travelling fans. The next World Cup, in the winter of 2022, will be challenged, but history has shown us that when it comes down to it, fans certainly suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) and most don’t care too much about human rights records.

There is little doubt that success in football can have a positive financial impact on a single country. Deutsche Bank’s analysts forecast that the Euros could have a £ 90 million benefit to the UK economy, almost half of it attributable to accommodation.

While a continent-wide Euros dilutes the financial rewards, it has also meant that no single country has had to spend heavily on infrastructure or new stadiums. But on the other hand, the amount of travelling has been questionable. In this age of increased climate awareness, financial pressures and the pandemic, transporting teams and fans across Europe doesn’t sound like a responsible operation. It doesn’t take much to imagine infection rates soaring when the teams go home.

And what teams have impressed. England, Italy and Denmark have been super achievers, Spain, Czech Republic, Sweden and Finland, exceeded expectations. France, Belgium and Germany disappointed or were disappointed. Players like Raheem Sterling, Kasper Schmeichel, Patrik Schick, Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Chiesa have impressed. 

The name that will live on, though, is Christian Eriksen. The incident, in Denmark’s first game, provided a reminder that football is not more important than life or death, but football can be a case of life and death. Happily, Eriksen is up and about, smiling and breathing.

What have we learned? For all football’s virtue signalling, some supporters still feel the need to jeer an opposition national anthem and opposition players and fans, that diving is not exclusive to any one nation and, thankfully, as demonstrated by Finnish fans, human nature is still capable of demonstrating its good side. When the final whistle blows in the final, we can look back on one of modern football’s better tournaments and a month that has helped restore national team football’s appeal as well as the appetite for the spectator experience. The profit margin may have been eroded, but Euro 2020 has been a success – in spite of the format. But let’s stick to conventional formats in the future.

Photo: Alamy

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