With a legacy as one of the biggest sporting events on a global scale and a showcase of some the finest competencies in the world of football, the UEFA European Championship will kick off in a few months. The event provides an excellent opportunity for football fans globally to celebrate a high-quality tournament with 24 teams that marks a football event that will blend young stars like Mario Götze, Raheem Sterling, and Eden Hazard with established mega-stars like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, Manuel Neuer, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Football and sporting events at the level of the UEFA Euro 2016 are meant as stages through which the players can manifest their names and add to their levels of brand equity. Whether this focus is on young talents or well-established superstars, the players know that spectacular performances in top venues during marquee events boost their popularity. At the same time, football fans are more likely to recall ‘determining actions and performances’ in important tournaments than good performances in less important competitions. This trade-off marks the genesis of any significant sporting event as a key career moment of the players is at the core of ‘making a positive difference’ in tournaments that reflect ‘world class’ and then flying home to be celebrated by a whole nation while lifting the trophy.
As you can see in the infographic below, the draw for the group stage of the tournament is ready and fans should be looking forward to following a football show that offers drama, excitement and performance-related aesthetics from the beginning to the end. The UEFA Euro 2016 provides thrilling rivalries like England vs. Wales, high-quality teams that face each other in the group stages as Group D features the reigning champions from Spain in fierce competition with nations like Turkey, the Czech Republic and Croatia while the ‘group of death’ aka Group E includes one of the best upcoming football nations as of right now Belgium in competition with Italy, Zlatan Ibrahimovic (and Sweden), and the Republic of Ireland.
The tournament is also a chance for the host nation France to reinforce its reputation for good hospitality. In that sense, sports tourism and international sporting events are capable of fascinating and attracting tourists and spectators but also other stakeholders like non-resident media, technical personnel, athletes, coaches, and other sports officials (Zauhar, 2004, p. 16 To understand France’s role as a host nation, the country has a good competitive position in terms of excellent food, good infrastructure (including football infrastructure), stunning landscape and a winning football culture that needs to be repositioned after the country’s strong period of multi-ethnic and marvelous winning football. This period was led by players like Zidane, Henry, Thuram, and Vieira that understood and had the capability to position themselves as superstars just like Platini did when he led France to win the UEFA Euro 1984. The French population will be enthusiastic to witness if France can lift the trophy just like they did when the country hosted the FIFA 1998 World Cup or the UEFA Euro in 1984. These passionate feelings among the French population will lift the atmosphere of the tournament like we saw when France won in 1998 and 1984, when Germany made it to the semifinals of the FIFA 2006 World Cup on home soil, when Italy as a home team made it to the semifinals of the FIFA 1990 World Cup, or when Portugal made it to the final at home during the UEFA Euro 2004. It helps to create some football fever when the host nation makes it far in the tournament and as a Dane I also remember the UEFA Euro 1992 when Denmark played the semifinal and final in Gothenburg. The proximity to Denmark added positively to the atmosphere due to the amount of Danish fans traveling to Sweden.
There are many potential winners of the tournament in France this summer. It will be interesting for me to see what the talented Belgian squad can do after they gained some valuable international tournament experience during the FIFA 2014 World Cup. France has the home advantage and Germany’s strength as a tournament team and their star quality and confidence and experience from the previous FIFA World Cup are also solid bids while we will have to see if Spain can raise themselves after an early exit in the previous World Cup. Does England finally have what it takes to make their performances count in an international national team competition? There are many questions and we always know that during these events there is often a surprise as well like we saw it when Denmark won in 1992 or when Greece won in 2004.
Walking down memory lane, football fans will also acknowledge that the UEFA Euro 2016 is another chance to witness tactical evolution. Just look at the insights related to Greece’s title in 2004, which was achieved on the foundation of a stringent defensive organization and compare that to Spain’s possession-oriented success in 2012. Consider Franz Beckenbauer’s positioning of the stylish libero position in the 1970s, Michel Platini’s emphasis on the role of the playmaker in 1984, the Dutch trio’s (Van Basten, Gullit, and Rijkaard) impact on AC Milan, which was transferred to a strong Dutch team during the 1988 UEFA Euro tournament, or the role of the lone striker in the recent decade. Debates about the death of offensive possession-oriented football after Greece’s success in 2004 is in gigantic contrast to Spain’s tiki-taka triumph in 2012 where players like Xavi and Iniesta transferred part of FC Barcelona’s offensive and creative combination DNA to the UEFA national team stage. These contrasts add energy to the articulation and positioning of modern football, which is an appealing element in terms of reinvigoration of fan identification and interest.
The event in France is in alignment with other UEFA competitions like the UEFA Champions League a perfect opportunity to stage Europe’s role as a powerhouse of modern football. The dynamism and complexity related to the event highlight massive economic and political interests of the host nation in conjunction with sporting organizations, the corporate world and the media. It is great international representation for France, its national football team and also an occasion to spread its (and Europe’s) footballing and sociocultural identity (Mariovet, 2006). As this marquee football event has intensified its positioning strategies in a sporting landscape hit by enhanced globalization, the spectacle of European football has manifested its identity. This is to be understood in the way that Europe is the powerhouse of modern football when measured on the balance between club and national team competitions, sporting identity, structure, and conditions and the economic investments and power associated with the sustainability of the game. In other words, the position of European football has been boosted by globalization and the ubiquitous media attention and branding of the modern version of the game while being subject to top-down (from the state and governmental level) as well as bottom-up (from people and communities) construction and promotion of the game and its marquee events (Horne & Manzenreiter, 2004). Therefore, my view is that modern European top football has not only benefitted from the high performance level in club and national team competitions but also from the fact that good sporting standards have been supplemented by successful event planning and hosting, and the mass deployment of people for the collective affirmation of identity construction and maintenance. In that regard, the new vision for the UEFA Euro 2020, which will present a united Europe as event host, serves as an excellent stage to cement this kind of positioning and to show the European footballing lifestyles while enhancing commercialization through postmodern and media-created football consumption where the quest for positive spectacles is high.
Horne, J. D., & Manzenreiter, W. (2004). “Accounting for mega-events forecast and actual impacts of the 2002 football World Cup finals on the host countries Japan/Korea”. International review for the sociology of sport, 39(2), 187-203.
Marivoet, S. (2006). “Part 3 Sports Mega‐Events, Power, Spectacle and the City: UEFA Euro 2004TM Portugal: The social construction of a sports mega‐event and spectacle”. The Sociological Review, 54(s2), 125-143.
Ribeiro, J. Cadima, José Viseu, Tânia Delalande, and Cristina Rodrigues. “UEFA Euro 2004 visitors analysis.” (2004).
Zauhar, J. (2004). “Historical Perspectives on Sports Tourism”. Journal of Sport Tourism, 9(1), pp. 5-101.