Wembley Stadium will be hosting the final of EURO 2020. Credit: Unsplash, Mitch Rosen

For the first time in its history the European Championships are not being played in one or two countries but across 11, spanning four time zones and numerous languages.

It will mean fans crisscrossing cities and borders, emitting a larger amount of carbon than in previous years.

Mindful of the problem, UEFA have taken steps to combat it.

While there are some positives to this change of tradition, like fewer stadiums being built – there are many negatives that could have long-lasting effects.

The 11-country idea originated from UEFA president Michel Platini as a ‘romantic’ one-off event to celebrate the 60th birthday of the European Championship competition and provide an alternative idea to cut organisational costs.

The countries hosting this year’s event are: Amsterdam-Holland, Baku-Azerbaijan, Bucharest-Romania, Budapest-Hungary, Copenhagen-Denmark, Glasgow-Scotland, London-England, Munich-Germany, Rome-Italy, Seville-Spain, and St. Petersburg-Russia.

Previous European Championships have been played either in one country or shared between two hosts, meaning long-distanced travelling and therefore more carbon dioxide (Co2) emissions.

UEFA has already agreed a deal with the hosting cities to provide free public transport for all ticket holders travelling on matchdays – an effort to cut down on pollution created by travelling fans.

So, what other plans have been put in place by UEFA to combat the added amount of carbon emissions?

The carbon footprint created by every supporter travelling to matches at the 2020 European Football Championships will be offset by UEFA as part of a compensation programme.

Head of football and social responsibility, Patrick Klaus Gasser, told The Sustainability Report: ”At the end of the tournament we will have the information and will be able to compensate that. We are conscious because we make supporters travel to games and this is the biggest impact we create in a negative way on the environment, so we make this our priority.”

Offsetting the emissions of all fans travelling throughout the tournament is expected to cost UEFA £390,000.

Sustainability is critical to all sectors and sport is no different

The Euros will also be the focus of an environmental pilot project to create new sustainability guidelines for football. These guidelines will be designed by TACKLE (Teaming up for a Conscious Kick for the Legacy of Environment) – a three year project funded by the European Commission to be tested during the Euros. 

Data surrounding waste and general environmental impact will be collected during this pilot stage, as well as exploring the life cycle of a football event  – conception, organisation, staging and closure.

The purpose of the project is to improve the environmental awareness of all the ”key stakeholders” contributing to the life cycle of a football event. For example, stadium management organisations and football fans.

In celebration of the 60th European Championships, UEFA will be planting 600,000 trees across the 11 hosting countries and cities. These new forests will produce an estimated 280,000 tonnes of CO2 over their lifetime.

During Euro 2016, spectators, fans and guests accounted for 19% of the 2.8 million tonnes of carbon generated by the tournament, while the venue construction was accountable for 26% of the 2.25 million tonnes of carbon emissions related to stadiums.

This should be lower for the 2020 games because there has only been one new stadium built, in Budapest-Hungary. In comparison to this there were 10 host stadiums newly constructed for Euro 2016 in France.

Covid restrictions mean that the volume of air traffic will be far lower than the initial estimation of an extra two million plane trips during this years tournament, but overall the total volume of air traffic will still be significantly harmful to the planet.

While UEFA has made some decisions for Euro 2020 that will ultimately see more pollution and carbon generated into our planet, it’s reassuring that UEFA considers climate change as a priority issue, putting multiple plans in place to combat the consequences of their decisions.

Referring to words from Dr. Russel Seymour, the founder of The British Association for Sustainable Sport (BASIS): ”Sustainability is critical to all sectors and sport is no different.”

It is now time that UEFA and the footballing community start prioritising climate change as a first concern.

Climate change and sustainability effects every single aspect of our lives and the footballing world is starting to understand the importance and power of their role in fighting for climate change.

Euro 2020 kicks off tonight (June 11) with Turkey v Italy at 8pm and is followed by 50 fixtures over the next month to decide who will be this tournament’s champions.