Challenges of 11-country event, COVID-19 protocols and a look at co-hosting-Sports News , Technomiz
COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the challenges of hosting Euro 2020 in 11 venues across 11 European nations.
Euro 2020, after losing one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, kicks off on the night of 11 June with Turkey taking on Italy. The final will be played on 11 July. The first match is in Rome, the final is in London. Between these two matches, there are many other cities and countries hosting the remaining European Championship games.
The 2021 edition of the tournament which is still referred to as Euro 2020 will be the first major sporting tournament to be hosted in 11 countries. The 11 cities of 11 different countries hosting the tournament are London (England), Seville (Spain), Glasgow (Scotland), Copenhagen (Denmark), Budapest (Hungary), Amsterdam (Netherlands), Bucharest (Romania), Rome (Italy), Munich (Germany), Baku (Azerbaijan) and Saint Petersburg (Russia).
The hosting of such a big tournament in multiple countries brings with it a bunch of logistical problems which have further been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
We take a look at the reasons behind the idea of hosting the tournament in multiple countries, the possibility of the idea being pursued in the future, and the logistical problems.
Why was it decided to host Euro 2020 in multiple countries?
Tournaments being jointly hosted by two or three countries is not a new thing but UEFA led by then president Michel Platini in 2012 took the ambitious decision of hosting the quadrennial tournament across Europe. The plan was to have “EURO for Europe,” where the administrators envisioned taking the championship to the fans.
The main reason, however, was to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the tournament in a grander fashion. Another factor driving the decision according to the then UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino and now FIFA president was to take the financial burden away from one host country and spread it across many.
“This summer we saw a fantastic EURO in Poland and Ukraine, but the governments and the two countries had to do quite a lot in terms of infrastructure, airports and stadiums. An opportunity like this, to give many cities and many countries the possibility to host even just one part of a EURO, is certainly an excellent thing, especially in times when you have an economic situation where you cannot expect countries to invest in facilities in the way that such an event requires,” Infantino had said.
Pros and Cons of hosting tournaments in multiple countries?
The general belief is that hosting a mega sporting event brings sponsorship money, match ticket revenues, and provides a push to tourism, uplifting the host country’s economy. That, however, is not always true.
For countries like France or England, which are blessed with superior infrastructure, hosting a tournament means fewer expenses and more revenues. However, we also have had examples where host nations have suffered massive losses after the tournament ends. Brazil built 12 stadiums for the 2014 World Cup, a few of them are not being used now. The country is now incurring heavy costs just to maintain these empty stadiums. According to a report in the Business Insider, Brazil’s Arena da Amazonia in Manaus is almost unused nowadays. It was built at a cost of $300 million. It made $180,000 in the first four months of 2016, at the same time spending $560,000 in operating costs.
Europe consists of several small countries which don’t have the financial wherewithal and high-capacity stadiums to host the European Championship on its own. It may still be an economic burden even if two or three of them come together. Spreading the tournament across multiple countries can be a solution to the problem, where it allows smaller nations to be a part of a mega tournament. It ensures no host nation comes under undue financial trouble. Also, the tourism incentive can be shared this way with smaller countries, helping their economy.
Euro or a World Cup is often a part of holiday plans for fans. Multiple country format works against them as they will have to travel extensively, however, grouping a country’s matches to limited closeby venues could help the fans. Also, neutral fans who often don’t get the chance of being part of such tournaments, can now travel to neighbouring countries and get the experience.
One of the biggest disadvantages of a spread-out tournament is the impact it would have on players. They come into the tournaments after playing a full season of football and extensive travel can never be a good idea. However, if fixtures are designed carefully, restricting movement as much as possible and limiting the distance, the impact of travelling can be curbed.
COVID-19’s impact on Euro 2020?
Hosting a mega tournament like Euro 2020 is always a Herculean task but back then in 2012 when the multi-country format was announced, UEFA had no idea the COVID-19 pandemic would double the challenges. Travelling during a pandemic means higher chances of getting infected for all, ranging from players, fans, administrators, organisers to broadcasters.
Another challenge for the organisers will be to create bio-secure bubbles in all 11 cities, have enough and appropriate arrangements for emergencies. The COVID-19 protocols also vary from country to country and that means logistics has become a nightmare.
It is also going to seriously impact stadium attendance. All the venues will be operating at reduced capacities. For example, 90,000-seater Wembley Stadium in London will only open its 25 percent capacity to the fans. Allianz Arena will have 22 per cent of its 70,000 seat capacity available to the fans. Only Puskas Arena in Budapest is aiming to fill up 100 per cent seats while Olympic Stadium in Azerbaijan’s Baku and Krestovsky Stadium in Russia’s Saint Petersburg will have 50 per cent seats available.
What are the COVID-19 protocols?
UEFA has allowed coaches to name a 26-member squad instead of the usual 23, in order to be ready for any COVID-19 infections. Teams will continue to do press conferences through online mediums, no players will be available in mixed zones for media.
If a team has positive cases, the infected player or staff will have to self-isolate. However, the team can still play matches considering it has at least 13 players available including a goalkeeper. The 13 players, however, need to test negative and must have complied with UEFA protocols.
If the team doesn’t have 13 eligible players, UEFA can reschedule the match and if that is not possible then UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body will decide the outcome of the match. The team due to which the fixture fails to complete will be either made to forfeit the game (0-3 loss) or the match outcome will be decided by drawing of lots (that is win 1-0, lose 0-1 or draw 0-0).
If a match-official tests positive for COVID-19 , then UEFA can appoint a replacement who may be of the same nationality as one of the participating teams.
For fans, accessing the stadium means having a valid ticket, a negative COVID-19 report or proof of vaccination. Countries like Azerbaijan and Russia have also given quarantine exemptions to ticket holders but fans from the UK may not be able to enjoy this benefit. Due to the fear of the delta-variant of COVID-19 , UK fans are required to undergo quarantine in Russia and Germany.
Will we see another such experiment in the future?
The European Championship has had two joint hosts on three occasions. The football World Cup has had two joint hosts once in 2002 when Japan and South Korea hosted the event. But, the Euro till 2012 was a 16-team event, now it is a 24-team affair. The World Cup will expand to 48 teams from 32 in the 2026 edition.
With more teams, there will be more matches, and subsequently, more stadiums will be required. Not just stadiums but high-capacity arenas. Such an expansion will force organisers to continuously look for joint hosts. For example, the World Cup in 2026 for the first time will be hosted by three countries — USA, Mexico and Canada. Or it could be a case of usual suspects hosting the tournament more often than not. For example, Germany are to host the Euro 2024. The hosting rights may keep circulating between countries like Germany, England, or France, which clearly doesn’t promote inclusiveness.
The idea to have 11 countries as a host is far from perfect. But the idea to have multiple countries as hosts has a lot of potential. Tournaments can be hosted by two or three or four countries. Unlike this time, where the tournament is being held across the globe, the joint hosts can be neighboring countries which will help every stakeholder in terms of logistics. Besides, it could also prove to be a sustainable financial model for hosting sporting events.
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