Uefa’s lofty environmental ambitions and the elephant in the room | Philippe Auclair

The intent of greening up its tournament, while undoubtedly sincere in corners of the organisation, is being undermined

Didier Deschamps wasn’t amused. Les Bleus had had to fight hard to see off an excellent Austria side in the evening game and needed to rest. Yet it was well past 3am when the coach ferrying them back from the Düsseldorf Arena finally came to a halt at the entrance of their hotel in Bad Lippspringe. The 180-kilometre trip had taken some three hours, when a 30-40-minute flight from Düsseldorf to Paderborn would have allowed Deschamps’ players to be in their beds considerably earlier. Deschamps kept his thoughts to himself, however. It was not his role to question the commitment made by the French federation to minimise its carbon footprint, in accordance with the principles of “climate action and advocacy” outlined in the “Football Sustainability Strategy” programme which Uefa had unveiled in December 2021.

The same principles have been applied to adapt these Euros’ schedule in order to “maximise sustainability without compromising fairness”, to quote Uefa’s head of men’s national team competitions, Marcelo Alleca. The folly of Euro 2020’s revolving carousel of venues – 11 stadiums in 11 countries, for goodness sake – would never be repeated. A more compact, greener tournament? Yes please, and thank God for that, everyone said, from fans and media to players and environmentalists. Unlike Fifa’s ludicrous – and thoroughly debunked – claim that Qatar 2022 would achieve Net Zero, Euro 2024 would at least be a step in the right direction. Uefa meant business.

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