England fans have waited 55 years to reach a major international tournament final, and just a few days after doing so UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has decided to p*** on their parade.
Many people have claimed the format of Euro 2020 has handed an unfair advantage to England in that six of their seven games (including this Sunday’s final) will have been played at Wembley – criticism made by people who have presumably forgotten that every tournament has a host nation.
This summer’s tournament has seen UEFA try a different format with 11 different cities across Europe hosting matches, meaning some sides have had to travel a lot more than others.
Finalists England have only once had to play a game away from Wembley when they travelled to Rome to face Ukraine in the quarter-final, and now the Three Lions have finally found a way they can prosper at major tournaments, Ceferin has confirmed it will never happen again – obviously.
“I would not support it [the format] anymore,” he told BBC Sport. “In a way, it is not correct that some teams have to travel more than 10,000km while others have to only travel 1000km. It is not fair to fans, who had to be in Rome one day and in Baku over the next few, which is a four and a half hour flight.
“We had to travel a lot, into countries with different jurisdictions, different currencies, countries in the European Union [EU] and Non-EU, so it was not easy.
“It was a format that was decided before I came [into post] and I respect it. It is an interesting idea but it is hard to implement and I don’t think we will do it again.”
One of the major talking points to come out of Euro 2020 has been UEFA’s refusal to illuminate the Allianz Arena in rainbow colours for Germany’s clash against Hungary in a statement of solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.
The request was spawned from the news the Hungarian government had banned LGBTQ+ content in schools or on kids’ television, though Ceferin claimed his hands were tied on the matter as UEFA can’t involve themselves in political disputes.
“My personal opinion on human rights and diversity, and the opinion of UEFA is clear,” he said. “The problem is, we got a letter with a request to light the stadium in the rainbow colours as a protest against the government of a country in Europe, and against a parliament of a country in Europe.
“UEFA is an organisation where by statute we cannot engage in politics. We punish people if they engage in politics. We cannot protest against any governments and we will not be dragged into any political fight.”
Some people have claimed it wasn’t safe for Euro 2020 to go ahead given the rise in COVID cases in some parts of Europe recently, but Ceferin says all the appropriate measures have been taken to ensure the players’ and the spectators’ safety and that the tournament has been a success.
“I have never seen a dramatic Euros like this one, with great matches and surprising results,” he added. “Our health protocols are extremely tough, and everyone is tested, even those who have been vaccinated. I was tested 76 times.”
While the football has of course been brilliant, the recovery of Christian Eriksen after his awful health scare has been by far the best thing to come out of Euro 2020, and the UEFA president has praised the medical staff who responded to the situation so quickly.
“It was a scary situation,” he said. “We were all completely shocked, but in a way, it was good it happened at a high level football match because paramedics were there in 20 seconds and that saved his life, I am sure.
“Thank god everything is OK with him and it was important to show respect to him and the team of doctors, who reacted fantastically.”