The Euros have come a long way since they were founded all the way back in 1958. Now six decades old, the Euros is one of the most hotly-anticipated football tournaments, rivalled only by the World Cup.
Held on an alternate four-year cycle to the World Cup, the Euros has a reputation for being a true football fans' tournament, historically lacking the same garish commerciality that seems to dominate the World Cup and other international and regional tournaments.
Despite this reputation, the Euros is most definitely big business from a commercial perspective. And having undergone two significant expansions in 1980 and 1996, the commercial side to the tournament has become increasingly pronounced. This became all the more apparent when, in France in 2016, the final tournament was expanded to involve a total of 24 countries for the first time.
For those sponsors providing funding for the tournament, the inclusion of more teams was a much-welcomed development, as it significantly increased the amount of on-screen time that the tournament would take up. Despite initial fears that the expansion of the tournament to 24 teams would water down the level of competition, some of the best performances of the tournament were delivered by small teams that would usually have long been knocked out of contention. In this more competitive setting, countries such as Iceland, Hungary, Northern Ireland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland provided some of the most memorable moments in the recent history of the tournament.
Sportsmanship aside, however, there is no denying that the European Championship is one of the most important events on the sporting calendar in Europe. And every two years or so when the ramp-up to the next tournament begins once again, matches between the 55 participating countries stimulate a micro-economy worth hundreds of millions.
Tellingly, public interest in the tournament has been accompanied by similar levels of growth in the revenue the tournament creates. When the tournament was hosted by Sweden in 1992, it generated a relatively modest sum of €41 million, which grew to a whopping three times that amount when the Euros were expanded to include 16 countries in 1996. Similarly meteoric growth accompanied the tournament in 2000, when it was jointly hosted by the Netherlands and Belgium, with the total revenue in that year increasing to €229 million.
Since then, the tournament has continued to experience growth at a seemingly unstoppable rate in terms of revenue. The income generated by Portugal reached €855 million in 2004, €1,351 million in Austria/Switzerland in 2008, and €1,391 million in Ukraine/Poland in 2012. The most recent tournament in France in 2016 generated a truly staggering €1,916 million – a whopping 37% increase from the previous tournament in 2012.
Given that the tournament is now such an important economic event, the competition to host it has understandably increased. With industry analysts having projected that the 2020 tournament was due to generate €2,500 million in revenue against a €1,000 million profit, expectations were at an all-time high on the commercial side of things in the run-up to the tournament. Hosting cities had anticipated that the 2020 tournament was due to provide a significant boost to local economies, with a report commissioned by the Dublin-based EY-DKM estimating that the four games they were due to host – three group stage games and one final 16 game – had the potential to generate €106 million in economic activity.
The economic increase delivered by the tournament is typically quite well spread across the various sectors of the economy. While one of the most immediate boosts is felt by local hotel groups and airlines, spin-off industries will also typically be beneficially affected. So, for example, online sports betting websites tend to see significant increases in activity as a result of these tournaments. This is understandable, given how well-paired online sports betting and sporting events are!
In this context, the decision to postpone the event in light of the global public health crisis of 2020 was taken with particular solemnity. Understandably, host states, corporate sponsors and the tournament organizers were particularly reluctant to defer it – nevertheless, good sense prevailed and the tournament was postponed for a year. However, with much of the world still unlikely to experience a significant degree of opening up by summer 2021, the race has now begun to find a new host. With so much still to play for in this regard, however, a frontrunner has yet to emerge.