This past week, a delegation from Sport Event Denmark and the Danish FA (DBU) went to Switzerland to experience that Copenhagen won the bid as one of 13 host cities in 13 different European countries to host part of the UEFA EURO 2020 tournament. That is fantastic news for Denmark in general but also particularly for ‘Denmark as a sports country’ and for DBU. The tournament is the world’s third largest sports event following the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games. In addition, UEFA is a strong sports brand, which on top of embracing various football activities governs the EURO tournament’s flagship role when it comes to national team competitions. In that regard, it is anticipated that UEFA in 2020 will boost the promotion of the tournament as a celebration of its 60th anniversary while the reach of the tournament is enhanced by participation of 24 teams.
Of course, there are pros and cons when spreading the tournament across 13 different cities and countries. The disadvantages refer to factors like the physical distance between host cities and hence increased travel time for participating teams and other stakeholders, e.g. fans, sponsors and media. That may have a tiring effect on the sporting quality, especially in the later stages of the tournament. Likewise, it may result in a growing cost level for those fans that intend to follow the entire tournament at the closest range and it may also influence the collective ‘host nation spirit’ compared to hosting the event in only one specific country. However, I prefer to adopt the positive mindset and to be happy that a sporting mega-event like the UEFA EURO 2020 is spread across several European countries and has found its way to Denmark. The event will add to a positive, enriched and shared European football experience and from a Danish football perspective it is wonderful news to be part of the group of hosting nations. The Danish opportunities to launch and host a footballing mega-event at this level requires collaboration across national borders and I have no doubt that this investment will affect DBU and ‘football Denmark from a holistic angle’ positively.
DBU finds itself in the midst of a process in which the organization aims at improving earlier attached images as a closed, conservative and dusty organization. With a new management team at the political level and in relation to operations and strategic decisions and visions, DBU has realized that it is time to do things differently. The organization wishes to regain the folksiness, which was synonymous with its commercial locomotive in terms of the men’s a-national team (Danish Dynamite) exceptionally during the 1980’s but also during the beginning of the 1990’s. Via rhetoric expressions well-aligned with meanings associated with an equal dialogue at eye level, DBU intends to optimistically refresh its engagement with fans and other stakeholders and thus to build a sense of unity by becoming #PartOfSomethingBigger and with that in mind, the future seems brighter for DBU. Football at the elite level is about winning; if you have been involved in that side of the game, you know that fact and it is a difficult task for a small country like Denmark always to be a part of the world’s footballing elite. Thereby, I do not emphasize that we (in Denmark) should lower the level of ambitions concerning talent development and national team performances in football because we have already shown that we have new and strong generations coming through with lots of potential to do well at the premier national team level. In other words, my point is that DBU more than ever appears as an organization, which has much more to offer than the men’s a-national team. That team is still a huge part of the organization’s commercial portfolio but there are also good meaning attached and economic potential tied to youth national teams, women’s football, football fitness and the opportunity to influence society’s and people’s health, the CSR-potential and not least football’s ability to articulate, adapt and improve challenges in connection with educational reforms, integration, social unity and creation of meaning for people across all ages and social boundaries. With that in mind, it should be highlighted that empty rhetoric expressions and platitudes do not create meaningful changes but in this case DBU shows that there is positive actions linked to their investment. We have already witnessed how DBU’s new directions regarding modernized and open approaches to fan engagement and commercialization for the men’s a-national team link to better brand perceptions and DBU has also shown to be more open and responsive to knowledge sharing among their most essential stakeholder groups (especially football fans). Now, investing in the UEFA EURO 2020 has manifested DBU’s involvement of football fans, football clubs, municipalities, cities, media, sponsors etc. in an event that has the prospective to become a second to none sporting folk festival in Denmark. That means to meet stakeholders at eye level and to become #PartOfSomethingBigger. Therefore, we should be looking forward to this great event and hope that the Danish national team qualifies for the event, as that will form a positive reinforcing circle.
The above-mentioned information stresses some of the investment-based advantages, which may be associated with the UEFA EURO 2020 in Copenhagen. Below, you will find some other advantages tied to the tournament’s presence in Denmark.
- Sports tourism is a vital argument for hosting international sports events and there is no doubt that UEFA EURO 2020 will lift sports tourism across European borders and Copenhagen can with the national arena’s (Parken’s) relative modest size benefit substantially from the international spotlight, which comes with this event. Additionally, approximately 80,000 (people that would not have visited Copenhagen otherwise) visiting spectators for the four games in Copenhagen will add significantly to the tourism turnover. The event will also affect urban spaces in other regions of Denmark positively as the tournament and the planned side events will shape travel plans, consumption patterns, and leisure time opportunities for Danes allover the country. However, tourism turnover from visiting stakeholders is key because this type of sporting mega-event has the ability to attract people that would not have come to Copenhagen for other purposes. Furthermore, it provides Copenhagen and Denmark with a worldwide opportunity to portray what Denmark has to offer in terms of unique events and culture.
- Exposure and branding impact are also essential factors to shed light on concerning major sports events. The UEFA EURO 2020 is covered on television in more than 100 countries and there are hundreds of international journalists present in Copenhagen during the four games. When analyzing the brand equity capability as a parameter of interest, it makes sense to consider the UEFA EURO 2012 in which seven out of the ten most valuable players (measured on media value) participated. To put that into perspective, this dimension will most likely be boosted in 2020 given the future media and technology development. For instance, Christiano Ronaldo has almost 100 mio. followers on his official Facebook page and that speaks for itself when analyzing the growing professionalization and commercialization that have characterized top football over the years and this development does not look to slow down in the years to come. Given exposure and brand equity capabilities comes sponsor integration and fan engagement as natural traveling companions and the 2020 tournament will feature a huge event set-up in Denmark, which will experience increased activation effects due to the activation of the entire population, e.g. schools, football clubs, DBU’s more than 300,000 active and organized members, and the level of volunteers and visitors in fan zones that are spread allover the country. This will enhance the articulation, involvement and the engaging empathy among most Danish citizens that will strengthen the event-DNA characterizing UEFA EURO 2020 in Copenhagen.
- Psychological impact is another factor that plays a central role during a major football event. Denmark hosting role is accompanied with pride and a huge folk festival and we must keep in mind that football triggers emotions and is a very debated and articulated sport with an omnipresent position in our cultural DNA. That plays well with the feelings of pride and national identity that will unite Danes and give us a mind-blowing football festival.
- The above-mentioned building blocks result in political and strategic interests, e.g. the preoccupation to expose Denmark in a positive way and thus to attract profitable investments (including future international sports events). On top of DBU’s and Sport Event Denmark’s preparations, the city of Copenhagen has accepted to back the event with financial grants and that is a good match with the city’s strategy to host major international sports events and with the Danish sports model in mind it seems natural that the event is a co-financed event in which the state (Sport Event Denmark), the region (Hovedstaden), and the municipality (city of Copenhagen) and a sports governing body (DBU) form a constructive combination play meant to realize fundamental goals for Denmark. If Denmark manages to qualify for the tournament, the probability for success will be even better but from my viewpoint the event is already a home run, also from a health perspective as this event will add to the promotion of sports participation (not least the active participation in the world’s most popular sport) in Denmark, which is associated with short-term and long-term health benefits. In that regard, it is an advantage for DBU to take part in a large European community in which the organization can share and gain knowledge and increase its understanding of future sports trends.
- When measuring the feasibility of major sports events, there are many discussion and reports, i.e. academic and practical, which touch upon whether or not it is feasible to invest in major sports events like this one. A few months ago, DBU also voiced a few reservations in terms of the price to host the event. One of the common denominators for these feasibility studies that result in negative conclusions is tied to gigantic investments without the appropriate capabilities concerning ‘afteruse’ for what reason tax payers face supplementary bills for maintaining sporting venues. However, the conditions regarding the event in Copenhagen are different than those relating to the FIFA World Cup in South Africa (2010) and Brazil (2014). In Copenhagen’s case, UEFA has approved that the venue’s (Parken’s) capacity is below 50,000. Nevertheless, Parken matches what can be expected from a modern sports venue and Copenhagen also offers a good and well-developed infrastructure. With the assumption that these factors minimizes the scope of the investment to host the event, it seems to be a good idea for Copenhagen to join UEFA’s massive commercial caravan and to position itself in the international spotlight. As written above, there are fantastic opportunities regarding fan zones and via different types of fan engagement DBU can create the framework for an all-embracing folk festival and thus exploit the tactical and strategic advantages linked to new technology. The latter is expected to grow from now and until 2020 for what reason this event adds new opportunities for fan engagement and sponsorship and media integration; data driven sports marketing has come to stay. Last but not least, Denmark does not face the same societal problem areas as South Africa and Brazil and if we (in Denmark) bring our economic resources and human capital in play along with an optimistic and rational mindset we will see that UEFA 2020 in Copenhagen contains huge potential. That refers to finding the right balance between the unique sporting and commercial opportunities, a fine status and branding impact and a timely importance regarding the creation of attention throughout the entire country and that also goes for DBU and the contact with football in Denmark from a holistic viewpoint.