Football

Uefa failing in Euro 2020 green promise

Landmark tournament not environmentally friendly due to new format

The 2020 European Championship will be the first to be played across the continent, with 12 different countries hosting matches, forcing teams and supporters to rack up thousands of air miles and leave behind a gigantic carbon footprint.

Sold by Uefa as a one-off to celebrate 60 years since the first European Championship, the format of Euro 2020 may be innovative and organisers have promised to make the tournament environmentally friendly.

That promise seems to ring hollow, however, when for example, Polish fans will have to travel over 6,000km in 10 days to watch their team's group games, to Dublin and Bilbao and then back to Ireland again.

Matches will also be played by the Caspian Sea in Baku, Azerbaijan, nearly 5,000km from London, where the final will be held.

"This is a total nonsense from an environmental viewpoint," Karima Delli, a French Green who chairs the European Parliament's Transport and Tourism Committee, said.

"They say this new format is about showcasing European unity, but they're forgetting that there is a climate emergency."

However, Uefa insists it has taken this "emergency" into account and says it is "taking steps to ensure that Euro 2020 is our most environmentally conscious tournament to date".

The format for Euro 2020 will see several leading nations - England, Germany, Italy, Spain, Holland - whose fans "are known to travel in their tens of thousands for major international tournaments", play their group games at home.

"This will significantly reduce the carbon footprint of the tournament," Uefa said.

Meanwhile, Budapest's Puskas Arena will be the only brand new venue for the tournament. This, Uefa says, has spared "a huge environmental cost in energy, concrete and other resources".

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Uefa is pledging to invest in "emission reduction projects", by planting 50,000 trees in each of the host countries, giving supporters free use of public transport on matchdays and recycling more waste.

However, Uefa is doing itself no favour by working with companies like carmaker Volkswagen and Azerbaijan's state-run oil company Socar, both whose environmental records are often less than exemplary.

Volkswagen has been a sponsor of its international competitions since 2017, despite the scandal that broke in 2015 when it admitted to cheating on emissions tests on its diesel cars.

Socar is the state-run oil company of Azerbaijan ruled with scant regard for human rights by the Aliyev family since independence from the USSR.

"It is still worthwhile to try to apply sustainable event management criteria, where possible, when organising a major event," Uefa said of its close links with both companies. - AFP

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