Pro: Continent-wide EURO 2020 was almost a necessity and should be fun | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 29.11.2019
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OPINION

Pro: Continent-wide EURO 2020 was almost a necessity and should be fun

Saturday's finals draw is focusing minds on UEFA's big gamble. Spreading the tournament across 12 countries could actually end up working well, writes DW Sports' Mark Meadows.

There has been a lot of whining about UEFA hosting EURO 2020 across 12 different countries. But if we rewind to when Europe's former football supremo Michel Platini made the decision in 2012, he had few other options. Europe was in economic flux following the credit crunch and few federations were willing to consider a bid with financial worries hanging over them   

Turkey was the only serious bidder but UEFA felt the Turks had become distracted with Istanbul's plans to bid for the 2020 Olympics.

Platini, whatever you may think of him after his ban following the scandal with Sepp Blatter, had to think quickly on his feet. By luck, 2020 was to be the 60th anniversay of the Euros, so the idea of spreading the tournament across the continent made some sort of celebratory sense - even if the true reason was cost.

Of course I accept that while costs are now spread across many federations, costs for fans will probably increase because of this format. That is not ideal but it is not as if flying to the other side of Europe is alien to many football fans. Some do it routinely during qualifying and if they follow their club sides, they also travel often in the Champions League and Europa League. 

Easier Travel

UEFA should have done more to limit the travel costs and indeed make sure there are direct flights between all host cities. The governing body was given a warning by Arsenal and Chelsea fans understandably complaining about getting to the Europa League final in Baku last season - the capital of Azerbaijan again hosts at the Euros.

But ahead of Saturday's draw, organizers have at least planned the groups so fans of individual teams should at most have only two venues to travel to in the group stage. Many nations will be playing "home" games in the first round - meaning travel is actually easier than for a tournament held in a single country 1,000 kilometers (622 miles) away.  

Meadows Mark Kommentarbild App

DW Sports reporter Mark Meadows

For fans who like to go to lots of group games not involving their own nation, it may on the face of it seem like a pain to have to fly, for example, from Copenhagen to Rome and then from Amsterdam to Bilbao. But the plethora of low-cost airlines now offering flights between cities not previously connected, means that Europe is the one continent suited to hosting such a widespread event - it is the smallest continent after all.

Spreading it across several countries and cities contrasts nicely with the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where the majority of the tournament will effectively take place in just one city - Doha. 

It is also a bit rich to moan about EURO 2020 when the 2026 World Cup will take place in the United States, Canada and Mexico  - a much wider expanse of land than little old Europe.

Fan Experience

A lot has been said about the special atmosphere that develops in a host nation when a tournament takes place - just think of the so-called "summer fairy tale" in Germany in 2006. But having myself attended several major tournaments, sometimes the "experience" can get a bit familiar when moving between similar cities of the same country.

There were times in South Africa in 2010 when I forgot if I was in Pretoria or Johannesburg. At EURO 2012, the medieval squares of Poland were all beautiful - but the centres of Wroclaw and Poznan had the same sort of vibe. However, those who also made a trip to cohosts Ukraine said the differing culture there reenergized the party.  

EURO 2020 will have 12 distinct fan experiences. A haggis in Glasgow, a beer in Munich, a jig in Dublin,  wandering along the Danube in Budapest. It could all feel very special indeed. There is a question mark over Saint Petersburg as one of the hosts as the World Anti-Doping agency mulls sanctions against Russian sport. If it were to drop out, which seems unlikely, the city at least held matches in the last World Cup so it has already experienced an economic benefit.

And that is the key point, several of the cities for EURO 2020 (Bucharest being a prime example) may never have the chance to host a major tournament if it was held just in one country. Spreading the game is what part of UEFA's remit is meant to be.

Fussball EM Qualifikation 2019 l England vs Kosovo (picture alliance/AP Photo/M. Dunham)

England are hoping to improve on their semifinal spot at the 2018 World Cup

London Finale

EURO 2020 will actually morph from the widest-spread European Championship ever to the tightest knit. Both semifinals and the final will be at Wembley. That will make the final week of the tournament extra special, fans of the best four teams all milling around the same city in wild excitement.

London is enormous so the festivities may end up being a bit diluted, but with so many hotel rooms etc needed, it was the only viable option. Plus, long suffering England fans might finally have a chance to celebrate a title if the Three Lions get to the latter stages and assume the fabled role of "hosts."

Far from being a nightmare, EURO 2020 might end up being really fun and different. Saturday's draw should just whet the appetite for next June and July.

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