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EURO 2021: PUBLIC AT ALL COSTS?

by: Adam Smith

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Among all the issues that plague European soccer today, the question of the stadiums for Euro 2021, formerly 2020, seems to be of secondary importance. However, the arbitrations that UEFA has just carried out are very instructive on the functioning of this institution, its relationship with the context, in particular the current pandemic, as well as its relative respect for the States, from which it was nevertheless quick to beg for support during the battle against the Superleague.

 

The news came on April 23 in a press release, even though everyone was expecting it. UEFA has removed Bilbao and Dublin from the list of host cities for the Euro, which will be held in eleven cities across eleven countries from June 11 to July 11 (i.e. tomorrow). The desire to maintain the event at all costs already raises serious doubts, when even the untouchable Olympic Games, scheduled for Tokyo this summer, are on the line. However, the Basque city and the Irish capital are above all paying the price of the intransigence of the Union, which requires, whatever the sanitary situation or the legal restrictions decided by the governments or the authorities, that a minimum threshold of the public is welcomed in the stands. Seville, St. Petersburg, and London are taking advantage of this to recover the matches concerned.

 

The party despite the Covid-19?

With its unusual format, wanted by Michel Platini to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the competition with dignity, this is not the first time the organization has stumbled. Brussels, the European capital, has been cleared because of difficulties related to its large stadium (always the folie de grandeur of international soccer authorities, which we can see, in its extreme logic, what it leads to in Qatar). The Covid epidemic has not, however, brought UEFA back to more reason or realism. Aleksander Čeferin has constantly reiterated the need to “ensure a safe and festive environment”, with spectators “at all matches”, between 20% and 100%, if possible a minimum of 50%. Naturally, the stakes in terms of ticketing, potential tourism, for an event whose economy has been severely damaged, as well as the need to sell a show on TV that is a little more exciting than empty stands where chants are heard through loudspeakers, are the basis of this obstinacy. Moreover, as far as communication is concerned, UEFA dreams of proposing a Euro as a way out of the crisis that illustrates in images, if possible joyful, that soccer celebrates the end of the pandemic. We are far from it…

 

It is not a novelty to observe UEFA treating with so much contempt the regal powers or simply the sovereignty of the public authorities, with regard to its only economic interests. It has always been able to impose mind-boggling orders on the countries hosting the Euro (total tax exemptions, hegemonic sponsors, etc.), for its own profit and benefit. A beautiful contradiction while it led its fight against the Superleague, by accusing the latter of thinking only of the lure of gain to the detriment of the general interest. This hypocrisy is even more shocking when it comes to interfere and thwart the fight against the virus, threatening the health of the population and the footballers themselves (the pro soccer has been reasoning like this since the beginning, its incidence rate is three times higher in L1 than the national average).

 

More withdrawals to come?

Naturally, the people who were ousted reacted firmly. In the Basque Country, and God knows that there, they are very fussy on the subject, the answer was scathing. “We will not accept in any way the questioning of the capacity of the Basque authorities to manage and organize international events, we read in a statement published on the website of the Bilbao City Council. We will leave no doubt about the criteria that have always been applied in this project for more than six years because this is where the Basque-style prevails: seriousness, consistency, professionalism, and responsibility. ”Ireland had already refused to commit, which seems normal, on the filling rates, until the curves of the pandemic did not allow such optimism. UEFA preferred to turn a deaf ear.

 

And the files in dispute are still not closed. So, if Munich has been retained, its mayor, Dieter Reiter, explained more modestly that “a week ago, I couldn’t say whether there would-be spectators or how many. I can hardly say that now. In Germany, where the Bundestag has voted for a national curfew, a first in this federal state, the end of the tunnel still seems far away. UEFA can bite its nails despite its current arrogance. Its attitude illustrates above all that it is not only Perez who is locked up in his bubble, or cut off from the world.