As we get closer and closer to the end of the European Championships, wives get closer to having their television back, and men will have to find another way to kill two hours of their evenings.
The great thing about big sporting events – or any big social events of that matter – is they bring people together like nothing else. They allow us to put differences, nationalities and creeds aside and focus on the spectacle that is unfolding in front of us – be it the Euros, the World Cup or the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio. However, one of the greatest powers any of these spectacles have in common is the ability to make us forget any unjust action or annoyance that went into making these events happen.
Take the Euros as an example. First there were fears in building up to the tournament over a potential terrorist attack, so security was increased. Then the English go over and riot in a city for two days causing thousands of euros in damage, and this was shortly followed by the Russians who, let’s just say, wouldn’t have looked out of place in a UFC cage. Before the tournament had even started, the host nation was paying the price.
There’s an old episode in ‘Father Ted’ where the background team of the Eurovision fix the national competition purposely to lose so that Ireland, whom had actually been winning at the Eurovision at the time, wouldn’t have to host it because we couldn’t afford it. Although there are obviously benefits from hosting such an event – such as giving a small boost to local businesses, hotels and restaurants – is it actually enough to tip the scale in such a way that the host nation benefits just as much as the organisers Uefa? Not even close.
First, Uefa increased the amount of teams in the tournament to 24. While they say it was to give smaller nations a chance, it hasn’t anything to do with smaller nations. More teams, first of all, means more money to begin with; secondly, it means more games which, if you consider ad revenue, ticket sales and television rights, all leads back to money. From television rights alone, Uefa pocketed a handy €1.05 billion. They will also gain a further €450 million from sponsors across the globe. In total, Europe’s football governing body expected to make €2 billion from this tournament.
Compare that to the host nation. French travel, hospitality and tourism will have benefited from the competition. However, Paris is the most visited city in the world, so the increase would have been minimal there. Then there’s the cost of the damage caused in the opening days and the increased spending on security. In truth, they could not have gained that much from the tournament unless they go on to win. Yet, Uefa gain €2 billion… football is fantastic in those ways.
They say that football is a gentleman’s sport played by hooligans and that rugby is a hooligan’s sport played by gentlemen, but in truth that statement is sheer snobbery. Football is not played by hooligans but by the working class while rugby is dominated by the upper class. Most of football’s followers are working class because its existence stems from the working class. They also get the most release from tournaments like these because it allows them escape from ordinary life for a short time.
This is why we forgive major corporations like Uefa and Fifa for this unfairness of wealth. Fifa are now two years away from their next World Cup which will take place in Qatar during the winter instead of the summer because of the heat. When the news of this broke, outraged football fans took to social media to voice their opinions.
The biggest complaint of all was the clash of fixtures with the Premier League, a focus that was better than Fifa could’ve hoped for. Instead of being outraged at the fact that labourers are being paid pennies to work in extreme heats under lax safety rules and regulations, and putting themselves in danger to build stadiums that will be left empty at the end of the tournament, the fans are distracted by something of much less importance.
However, it is not just football that is driven by money. Like Uefa and Fifa, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), too, has eyes that see nothing but green. Despite warnings to begin with about the Zika virus, they decided to go ahead with their planned summer Olympics Games in Rio. Despite protests from the local people about the event, their plan still goes ahead.
But, just like the protests of 2014, the magic of the event and the packages presented by the media will allow everyone to forget what happened before and what will happen after. Just like velcro runners, the people of Brazil will try to hold on as tight as they can to the money brought to them by the Olympics, but eventually it will give and the IOC will take it all with them, just like Fifa did two years ago.
However, we will not remember this. What we’ll remember is that Robin Van Persie goal or the time Usain Bolt ran in the 200 metres. We allow ourselves to get distracted in the important moments of these tournaments and this makes it much too easy to forget the important things that go on behind the scenes.
Enda Coll, Pundit Arena