Euro 2020 is set to draw to it’s dramatic conclusion on Sunday evening, with England taking on Italy in front of what will be a largely home support at Wembley.
It has so far been an exciting tournament, with plenty of thrills, spills, shocks, and surprises along the way, the competition taking in the length and breadth of the continent as opposed to being in a host country as has historically been the case.
The new pan-European format was the brainchild of former UEFA president Michel Platini, who had hoped for a ‘big festival of European football’, though nobody could have foreseen that it would have aligned with the global pandemic that has seen fans locked out of stadia for over 12 months.
Matches have been played in London, Glasgow, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, St Petersburg, Seville, Munich, Baku, Rome, Bucharest and Budapest over the course of the last month, with Switzerland racking up the most distance travelled across their five games, registering a whopping 9,662 air miles.
As the tournament has progressed, however, a number of figures in the game have criticised the format, with Wales’ Chris Gunter describing it as ‘a joke’. The Welsh were forced to travel between Rome and Baku for their Group A games and played largely without travelling support, while Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini has recently said it was ‘predictable’ that England would reach the final, with six of their seven fixtures on home turf at Wembley.
However, it doesn’t seem as though the cross-continental format will be returning any time soon, with UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin saying he wouldn’t ‘support’ the idea given the multiple difficulties encountered, with Euro 2024 set to be held in Germany.
“I would not support it anymore,” Ceferin told BBC Sport.
“In a way, it is not correct that some teams have to travel more than 10,000km while others have to only travel 1,000km.
“It is not fair to fans, who had to be in Rome one day and in Baku over the next few, which is a four and a half hour flight.
“We had to travel a lot, into countries with different jurisdictions, different currencies, countries in the European Union (EU) and Non-EU, so it was not easy.
“It was a format that was decided before I came [into post] and I respect it. It is an interesting idea but it is hard to implement and I don’t think we will do it again.”
Despite his opposition to the format, Ceferin says it has still been a ‘special’ tournament, with fans starting to return to stadia across Europe despite the ongoing Coronavirus restrictions.
“It has been a special Euros, for sure,” he added. “I will remember it as the beginning of normality and the return of fans.
“I have never seen a dramatic Euros like this one, with great matches and surprising results.
“Our health protocols are extremely tough, and everyone is tested, even those who have been vaccinated. I was tested 76 times.
“The teams are highly professional and they all respect the bubble system. Also, in the stadiums, we are very strict and when I see politicians saying people were infected at the matches, without any proof, it disappoints me a bit.
“Some say 2,000 Scottish fans were infected, but the Scottish fans who went to the match [against England at Wembley] were tested.
“There were also 20,000 who came to London without tickets. You are not tested in the park, but to accuse all football of spreading the virus is irresponsible in my opinion.”