Long distances between matches, no atmosphere, a complicated format. Spreading EURO 2020 across the entire continent is a crazy idea, writes DW Sports' Herbert Schalling.
You want to get to know Europe? UEFA (still European football's governing body and not a travel agency) will offer you all the opportunities you need to do so next summer. How about taking a trip to Baku, then Rome, back to Baku before heading off to Amsterdam and then returning to Baku before two trips to London? No reasonable person would book a tour like that, but this could be the itinerary for a team that gets drawn in Group A at EURO 2020, finishes second, and makes the final.
What may be a logistical challenge for the team is a nightmare for traveling fans, and comes at considerable cost. What fan really wants to put his or herself through that? Especially since he or she would have to repeatedly return home between trips, since the outlined itinerary would stretch from June 13 until July 8. Sure, there will be shorter distances for other group winners and group runners-up, but still, there is no question that EURO 2020 will lead to increased air traffic. In an age of climate change, this is anything but sustainable. Where's Greta Thunberg when you need her?
Fans not UEFA's top priority
The interests of the fans are clearly only of secondary importance to UEFA. However, it is the colorfully attired and partly face-painted fans who do a lot to create the atmosphere at this sort of tournament, both inside the stadiums, but also on days off in the host cities. In the past, the Euros have always meant bringing the continent together in one or two countries to watch football and get to know each other better. As a reporter, I've had the privilege of experiencing this football culture for myself at various Euros and World Cup tournaments. Is there anybody in Germany who doesn't fondly recall the "summer fairy tale" World Cup of 2006? Such tournaments have always enhanced a host nation's image abroad.
Now the party is to be spread across 12 cities in 12 countries. This means that only the fans whose teams play against each other will meet now. The pan-European party is off, and EURO 2020 will be a tournament without a soul. The football festival will be reduced to a product controlled by sponsors, to merely a televised event. The viewer watching from afar couldn't care less whether the stadiums are 300 or 3,000 kilometers apart.
Level of football suffers - profit increases
"Twenty-four nations, one tournament, all of Europe" is how UEFA has billed its continental tournament. The official reason making EURO 2020 a pan-European tournament is that it is the 60th anniversary of the first European Championship. The fact that this was a solution born out of necessity and closely linked to former UEFA President Michel Platini, isn't mentioned. The Frenchman's election to the highest office of European football in 2007 was mainly due to the votes of the smaller football nations, especially those from Eastern Europe. Platini "rewarded" them with an increased tournament size, expanding from 16 to 24 teams in 2016. Platini's second brilliant idea came when he voted in favor of holding the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. That's the next major football event that fans are up in arms about.
More teams, more matches, more stadiums - doable for a big country like France in 2016. For 2020, however, no suitable single host could be found. For UEFA, though, the tournament four years ago really paid off, with €1.9 billion ($2b) in revenue, and a 34 percent increase in profits. A further increase is expected from EURO 2020. I'm referring to profit, not the sporting side of things. The quality on the pitch was already poor in 2016.
Final in the land of Brexit
From the perspective of its supporters, this pan-European tournament is a sign of a united Europe. The reality, however, is somewhat different. The semifinals and the final are to be held in London, in a country that will no longer be part of this united Europe by next summer. Or maybe not. When it comes to Brexit, you never know what will happen.