Opinion: EURO 2020 - Long on travel, short on sense
For traveling supporters from Wales and Switzerland, the delayed Euro 2020 could be a bit stressful. First, fans of both sides have to travel to Baku, where their teams will meet in their first game of the group stage. The Welsh will then stay in Azerbaijan for the second group game, while the Swiss will travel on to Rome - and from there back to Baku - logging thousands of kilometers in flights along the way.
While in the air, however, the Swiss will be able to wave to the Welsh, who will be winging it in the opposite direction for their third game in Rome. That is not to mention possibly going back to their respective bases inbetween.
If they get through the group stage of the June 11- July 11 tournament, there will be lots more jetsetting in the knockout stages but at least the semifinals and finals are all in London.
Global-warming and coronavirus friendly
Considering the kilometers that will be racked up by teams, fans and officials, the schedule is the polar opposite of environmentally friendly. And the coronavirus pandemic makes it even more questionable - given the risk of spreading the virus and national restrictions meaning fans cannot even get to some host cities or stadiums.
And it's not only the Welsh and Swiss in Group A who'll be clocking up the air miles as part of this European Championship.
All teams will have to travel at least once in the group stage, with the exception of Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, England and Germany.
What kind of football fan can handle this? Who can afford to string together so many air journeys? It is complicated enough even knowing if COVID-19 regulations will allow someone to travel across some of these borders.
Fan interests bottom of the list
Fans are, of course, used to traveling for big tournaments. It's often a part of the appeal of such events. But the European Championship has, until now, been hosted by one, or perhaps two countries, meaning the distances were much shorter. And the host cities were places for fans of many nations to mix over a period of time - rather than being venues for fleeting drop-ins.
The fans were bottom of the organizers' priority list. Evidence of this is the fact that so many supporters have had to give up their tickets because of reduced stadium capacities due to COVID-19. Meanwhile UEFA continues to peddle expensive hospitality seats and distribute promotional tickets to sponsors.
For the most part, the "true fan" has little choice but to stay home, where it is safer in the first place and where they can get so much more out of the experience - except for the endless commercials before, during and after the televised matches.
Anything but enthralling
Incidentally, the man responsible for spreading Euro 2020 across the continent is former UEFA president Michel Platini, who pitched it as a way of celebrating the 60th anniversary of the first European Championship. It was dreamt up long before any of us had heard of PCR or Antigen coronavirus tests.
However, this grand idea came along only after UEFA failed to find a single country willing to host the 2020 edition of the tournament. The fact that Platini had already pushed through a move expanding the Euros from 16 to 24 teams for 2016 - couldn't have helped. It was a move apparently designed to bolster his support among smaller associations and, thus, his chances for re-election. He ended up being banned from football.
I don't want to be a spoilsport: Of course it's great that the likes of North Macedonia, Finland, Slovakia and Wales have made it to the Euros. Such national teams may not have made it into a 16-team field. However the tournament structure since the increase is anything but enthralling, with only eight of 24 teams eliminated after the group stage.
It's comforting, however, knowing that this year's European Championship will remain a unique experiment. Germany is to host the 2024 tournament. It's a big country, yes, but one can still take a six-hour train ride from Munich in the far south to Hamburg in the far north. No such luck when riding the rails from Baku to Rome.