The Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi tried to move the final of Euro 2020 to Rome. He had the support of Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, both worried about England’s Covid numbers. So was and still is the World Health Organization (WHO) that has been cautioning host cities for months. But UEFA didn’t listen. To the Union of European Football Associations, the coronavirus numbers didn’t matter. The only numbers that have mattered are the ones with a dollar sign.
The final has been confirmed and it will be at Wembley Stadium. There will be 60,000 spectators, meaning 75% of the venue’s capacity. Despite the Uk’s rising contagion numbers, especially in the Delta variant.
So, why has UEFA decided to go ahead with its British plan? Officially, the reason is Wembley’s iconic status. Or, as UEFA writes, “that London is one of the world’s great cities is not in question and Wembley is no stranger to big matches.”
The same can be said of the Olimpico Stadium in Rome, which hosted the 2009 Champions League final and even the soccer World Cup in 1990. Plus, the importance and prestige of Rome aren’t even questionable.
Follow the money
So, what’s the real reason? One of them is fans and the money they bring, both to the host cities and to UEFA itself. In fact, Rome guaranteed a stadium capacity of 25-45%, compared to the 75% of London. The least expensive ticket for the final costs euro 295, while the most expensive ticket sells at euro 945. The average is euro 620 which, multiplied by 60,000 spectators, gives a total of over euro 37 million. Not too bad, is it?
Plus, since the income from all the UEFA gadgets goes directly to the Union, the revenue is exponential both for UEFA and the country’s economy.
For example, Euro 2016 in France generated euro 1.2 billion. Since exiting the European Union, the British economy has faced the true cost of Brexit. As the Economist reported, exports fell by over 40%. So, the final game is a necessary income. Due to Covid restrictions, even UEFA’s revenue has dropped, from euro 3.86 billion to euro 3.04 billion. Having 60,000 spectators means replenishing the treasure chest. With sponsors and commercial licenses, the EUFA is bound to make a fortune.
The Superleague fiasco
However, money isn’t the only reason why Rome was never going to get the Euro 2020 final. In fact, UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin has a debt to repay. When top European teams started talks about the exclusive and independent Superleague, UK’s PM Borish Johnson stepped up. If the Superleague ever became real, UEFA would have lost revenue. Neither Čeferin nor Johnson were having it. The Prime Minister threatened to stop the teams’ plans with a legislative proposal and the teams backed off.
“I find it very responsible from the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to take a sharp stand on the side of the fans, not only because of the culture and love of football, but also because it ensures order in the country,” said Čeferin, “the reaction from the British government has helped a lot.”
Euro 2020 final, what about Covid?
What better way to repay the debt? Indeed, let Wembley host the Euro 2020 final, no matter Covid. After all, UEFA has the virus under control. Especially since ticket holders have to accept a code of conduct before entering the venues. But it’s not all up to the Union of European Football Associations, as UEFA Euro 2020 medical advisor Dr. Daniel Koch said to the union’s website.
“The question is whether it is safer to have 65,000 people in a stadium, or if it makes a difference if it’s only 20,000, or if it makes a difference at all?,” said Koch, “I have to say that it depends on the local situation and the measures that the country has imposed, and especially on the epidemiological situation of the country.”
In this specific case, the United Kingdom, a country that on June 7th, reported 32,548 Covid cases. That’s four days before the Euro 2020 final. And ministers predict over 100,000 new daily cases. Far from a positive epidemiological situation.
No entry allowed
Still, the final wasn’t going to move from London. Even despite Covid’s numbers and the impossibility of European fans to join. In fact, only supporters who live in the United Kingdom will be able to participate because the UK still prohibits European travelers from entering the country.
While UEFA has always asked the host cities and countries to ensure ease of movement to and from the stadiums, this time it closed both eyes. According to the Union’s bid for Euro 2024, “all foreign nationals with a valid passport should be permitted to enter and exit and should be granted any relevant visas.” Somehow, the same requirement doesn’t apply to Euro 2020. Or it applied to Rome and Baku, not Wembley.
So, debts to repay, massive interests, and an economy to repair: that’s why the final of Euro 2020 was always going to be in London. More than the sake and safety of fans, the decision was about the sake and certainty of revenue. Indeed, Italy never stood a chance. It’s the business of soccer.