Euro 2020

Euro-2020 in 12 countries, an ecological disaster? – Euro 2020

by: Adam Smith


Fifty-one matches in twelve countries across the Old Continent, and the thousands of kilometres of planes that go with it: Euro-2020 football and its unprecedented format raise fears of an explosion in the tournament’s carbon footprint, despite promises eco-responsible organizers.

In this format, as innovative as it is a emitter of greenhouse gases responsible for global warming, distances question: for example, the Polish supporter wishing to see all the matches of his selection in June will have to, just on the phase of travel at least 6,000 kilometres in ten days, from Poland to Bilbao (Spain) via Dublin (Ireland).

With potentially a round of 16 in Budapest (Hungary) and a quarter in… Baku (Azerbaijan), 4,000 kilometres from London, host city of the semis and final. Four years earlier for Euro-2016, a round trip to France would have been enough, along with train journeys during the tournament to reach the ten French cities organising.

“This is complete environmental nonsense,” Karima Delli, an environmental MEP who chairs the European Parliament’s committee, told AFP. “We supposedly want to show the unity of Europe with this novelty, but we forget that there is a climate emergency.”

This “emergency”, UEFA, the organiser, hammers for having taken it into account by promising that Euro-2020 will be “the most environmentally friendly tournament” in its history.

– Infrastructure and, polluting sectors –

The European body is making its arguments.

Firstly, several major football nations (Spain, England, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany), precisely those whose supporters are “known to move by the tens of thousands”, will play their three group matches at home and “this will significantly reduce the movement of fans,” UEFA told AFP.

Moreover, “very little infrastructure had to be built” – only one of the twelve stadiums (Budapest) was erected – avoiding, according to UEFA, “a huge environmental cost”.

Are these lines of defence admissible? Andrew Welfle, a researcher at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester, says construction is indeed the “first polluting sector” of a major competition, ahead of Euro-2020 thus ensures a “huge gap” in terms of emissions compared to other tournaments, such as the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where all the venues will be set up – or modernised – for the occasion.

As for the programs due to the movement of spectators, “this is the most difficult thing to calculate. Estimates will be based on many assumptions, assumptions… which themselves will be more or less realistic,” the researcher continues, cautious in the face of this novelty that is hardly comparable to past editions.

UEFA, on the other hand, has risked this estimate: according to its assumptions, 425,000 tonnes of CO2 will be emitted by fans – and teams – in their travels during the entire competition.

This total was 517,000 for Euro-2016, which was played in one country, and almost 1.5 million for the 2018 World Cup, which was held in eleven cities in the western third of Russia – but with 32 teams, some from other continents, compared to 24 million for Euro – according t o the organisers’ post-competition reports.

– Compensation –

To accompany its promises, UEFA has pledged to “compensate” for the 425,000 tonnes of carbon through investments in certified emission reduction projects, and has also announced its intention to plant 50,000 trees in each of the host countries, supposed to symbolize the environmental “legacy” of the tournament.

Which is hard to convince. “Planting trees and leaving is not solving the problem. In the end, it didn’t change the amount of programming produced during the tournament,” welfle said.

To reduce the ecological footprint, UEFA is arguing for measures. For example, by introducing a “combined ticket” which offers free public in the organising city to spectators with tickets. By also reducing the number of parking spaces around stadiums to “promote public,” she insists.

And “hoping to do better” in terms of recycling than at Euro-2016, where 38% of the waste produced in the stadiums was recycled according to UEFA.

– The model in question –

More generally, the controversial issue of inflation of major transgaming.orgs competitions with more teams, therefore more matches and more pollution remains to be decided: the Euro has gone from 16 to 24 teams, Fifa plans a World Cup with 48 caps.

“There are many ways to organize these competitions differently,” insists Andrew Welfle. “Why not base the choice of the host country on the question of Reducing the number of matches, giving spectators more time to get there?” asks the researcher.

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin acknowledged this last September that the football world has “not done much for the environment” so far, and Euro-2020 will “pollute a lot”.

Since then, the organisation has repeatedly said that the format of its 2020 edition “will probably not be renewed soon”, insisting on the “excellent infrastructure” of available to Germany, host of the 2024 edition. The first truly eco-responsible Euro?