Euro 2020, now Euro 2021, is fast approaching and fans are eagerly and nervously looking forward to it. They are already booking spaces at pubs that display live sports event like The Cornershop Bar, a Shoreditch pub. This tournament is scheduled to be held from June 11 2021 to July 11, 2021. For those not familiar with the Euro championship, here is a quick rundown on how it works:
There are 55 teams within UEFA. Each team must compete to qualify for the 24 spots as part of EURO 2020/2021 at the group stage. The first 20 teams were chosen through the qualifiers, with the last 4 teams being chosen via playoffs. Each of the qualifying 24 teams is split into 6 different groups for the tournament. Here is how the teams are currently setup:
Group A: Turkey, Italy, Wales, Switzerland
Group B: Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Russia
Group C: Netherlands, Ukraine, Austria, North Macedonia
Group D: England, Croatia, Scotland, Czech Republic
Group E: Spain, Sweden, Poland, Slovakia
Group F: Hungary, Portugal, France, Germany
The winner and runner-up of each group and the 4 best 3rd place teams will move on to the round of 16.
Euro 2020/2021 is a bit special since it is the 60th birthday of the championship. To celebrate this, the tournament is being held in 12 different countries across Europe. However, the teams of those countries do not automatically qualify. The host countries are the Netherlands, Azerbaijan, Spain, Romania, Hungary, Denmark, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, England, Germany, Italy, and Russia. The tournament is scheduled to start in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, with the semi-finals and finals being held in London’s Wembley Stadium. Portugal is the current reigning champion from 2016.
So now that we have that background, how is all of this going to play out given the coronavirus pandemic? Just like so many other businesses and industries, the football industry has taken a massive economic hit. This tournament was already postponed from its originally scheduled date back in 2020, and postponing it one more time would be devastating, for fans, players, and financially invested parties alike. However, having a massive stadium full of fans for a tournament that spans the continent is a major risk for the spread of infection. Officials are now trying their best to provide specific plans for each stadium regarding capacity and protocols for fans to enjoy the tournament. There is also talk of modifying the tournament from the original 12 cities to either 4 or 1, depending on the progression of the virus. There is hope with the rollout of the vaccine, but only time will tell whether the tournament will continue as planned and what situation the pandemic is in at that time.
Another interesting development as part of Euro 2021 is the introduction of the VAR or the Video Assistant Referee. This is the first time that the system is being used as part of the Euro tournament. The goal is to reduce ambiguity and reduce doubt on calls made by referees. The referees that are lined up for the tournament are well versed in this technology. Of course, the list of referees is also subject to change as the location of the matches is still up in the air.
The scheduled date of Euro 2021 is fast approaching, and there are still a lot of questions to be answered. Not only is this particular tournament being affected by coronavirus, but the whole landscape of football is also changing. But one thing is for sure – the love of the fans for the sport is standing strong. Hopefully, with the rollout of the vaccine and the careful planning of the tournament officials, fans can enjoy some semblance of the community and the excitement that this event brings.