DOHA, February 10, 2016 – EURO 2016 is right behind the corner, France is ready and football fans are counting down, four months to go. On June 10th, Paris will be the capital of Europe and the Stade de France will sing the Marseillais like it has never been sung before. The last time the Marseillais was heard at this same venue was November 13, a night that turned into tragedy for all of Paris.
One of the guests of AIPS congress in Doha was an UEFA Head of Events Services Lucas Achermann, who spoke about the EURO 2016 in France. He shared information and numbers related to the tournament, but one thing was clearly not mentioned. How many people will be in charge of security? Who will be protecting fans and players? Who will be in charge of preventing another potential terroristic attack?
However, maybe this was not the place or time to talk about such concerns. The focus was clearly on football. France has a very strong team and the fans hope it can bring them a third European title. In 1984 they had Platini, in 2000 they had Zidane, now they have Martial and Pogba. If one of them take on the role of their predecessors, they very well could.
If the Qualifiers are anything to go by, their biggest rival should be England who won 10 out of their 10 qualifying matches. Germany as a world champions and Spain as a European title defenders from Ukraine and Poland will not go down lightly. Speaking of Poland, their national team is going to France with the best striker of qualification tournament, Robert Lewandowski who scored 13 goals.
Also, it is important to say that unlike four years ago when there were 16 teams competing, this year 24 teams will be fighting for a glory. Achermann highlighted that the main reason the tournament was expanded was to give smaller football nations an opportunity to participate on the biggest European stage.
UEFA consider the initiative successful given that five countries that have never competed in a EURO will make their debut in France. Wales, Albania, Northern Ireland, Island and Slovakia. However, this theory could be contested with the fact that each of the five ended the Qualifiers in first or second position, meaning they would have qualified even if the 16-team system had remained.
However, these five countries and 19 others will play all together 51 matches in ten cities, with at least four matches in each city and seven in Paris, including the opening and the final. As Mr. Achermann described, the Stade de France is the biggest stadium with 80,000 seats. The smallest is one in Toulouse with 33 000 seats.
Achermann added that UEFA has provided a total of 2.5 million tickets for EURO 2016 and that the tournament will be broadcast in over 200 countries.
At the end of his presentation, Achermann expressed his hopes that media will cover the competition in a record number, but a problem appeared when he revealed that there will free transportation would not be provided for journalists, neither within the city or from one city to the other. Free inner city transport has been a given at previous large-scale competitions, including the previous two Euro Championships. Achermann claimed that UEFA had been pushing to solve the issue that over two years, but that despite all efforts, journalists will have finance their own transport within France while covering the month-long competition. A single metro ticket costs 1.80 euros, while a bus ride is 2 euros. Train or bus travel in between cities, comes with higher prices.
Another matter discussed is the fact that UEFA plans on hosting a total of 4000 journalists during the EURO, however, Mr. Achermann confirmed that over 4600 accreditation requests were received, adding that UEFA’s media team is now reviewing which requests will be approved and which will not. He could not tell the 200-large AIPS members gathered whether the AIPS card would give them an advantage during the review process, but underlined the positive working relationship that the two associations have always had.