Imagine a series of outline maps spanning England, Europe and, perhaps even, the world. They feature clearly highlighted contours and country boundaries but the neatly printed place names that customarily adorn atlases and globes are missing.
It is safe to assume that, asked to fill in the blanks and pinpoint specific towns and cities, a lot of people might make some embarrassingly bad guesses. But what are price football fans proving the geographically literate exceptions?
Think about it; everyone who regularly follows an English league team on the road knows which respective sides of the Pennines Bradford and Bolton belong to and would be mortified to get Wolverhampton muddled up with West Bromwich. If their club plays in Europe, or they are aficionados of the international game, those supporters are similarly unlikely to suffer a brain freeze when it comes to separating Budapest from Bucharest.
That duo will be in the news next summer when Hungary and Romania are two of the 12 countries hosting 24 teams and 51 matches at a strangely atomized Euro 2020. It is part of the tournament’s 60th birthday celebrations but the move away from one nation – or two at most – signals the sort of unfortunate timing that suggests football is, once again, behind the curve.
All those contrails constantly crisscrossing an area stretching from Baku to Bilbao en route to the eventual denouement in London will surely seem indicative of a sport apparently too arrogantly self-important to bother itself about the climate emergency.
Carbon-related concerns aside, common sense appears in short supply. At a moment when there is mounting worry surrounding certain European cities being overrun with tourists, it seems myopic to stage matches in three of the continent’s most rammed sightseeing locations: Amsterdam, Budapest, and Rome.
Admittedly there should be few such problems in slightly more off-the-beaten-track Bucharest, while things should really shift a full 180 degrees in Baku. With costs high and obtaining visas a bit of a rigmarole, tourists are few and far between. So rare, indeed, that it is surprisingly difficult to buy a commemorative postcard, let alone a T-shirt, in an Azerbaijani capital geared much more towards catering for the corporate types typically found pacing Uefa’s corridors of power.
Were Greta Thunberg ever to face down those decision‑making suits, her pigtails would surely flap with righteous indignation at the giant carbon footprint symbolized by the telltale white vapor streams stretching behind zigzagging aircraft carrying teams, supporters and media between assorted Euro 2020 venues.
For the moment at least, though, football’s all‑consuming appeal ensures that fans who might breezily condemn members of the royal family – think Harry and Meghan – for jaunting off to the Mediterranean on private aircraft, happily turn a blind eye to the game’s collective executive jet habit. As any plane spotter worth their salt knows, Arsenal’s infamous 14-minute charter flight from Luton to Norwich in 2015 merely represents the tip of the, er, iceberg. Read More