UEFA confirms multi-year Champions League final hosts, tackles stadium access

UEFA has confirmed the award of the three Champions League finals spanning 2021 to 2023 to Saint Petersburg, Munich and London, while European football’s governing body has elected to wade into the issue of women’s access to stadia in certain countries.

Zenit St. Petersburg’s Gazprom Arena (pictured), Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena and London’s Wembley Stadium were initially reported as the likely destinations of the three finals last month, with the decision now confirmed by UEFA’s Executive Committee.

UEFA has historically awarded the finals to its leading club competitions on a year-by-year basis, but a likely move away from this strategy was signalled earlier this year. In February, it was announced that the 2021 Champions League final would be played at either the Gazprom Arena or Allianz Arena after the bidders for that year’s club competition finals were detailed.

At the time, UEFA also chose to open the bidding process for the 2022 and 2023 Champions League finals, with the latter event set to tie in with the centenary year of the opening of the original Wembley Stadium.

Gazprom Arena opened in 2017 and served as a host venue during the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Allianz Arena hosted the Champions League final in 2012, when Bayern lost on penalties to Premier League club Chelsea.

The ‘new’ Wembley staged the 2011 and 2013 Champions League finals, which were won by Barcelona and Bayern, respectively. Gazprom Arena, Allianz Arena and Wembley will also be host venues during UEFA’s European Championships national team tournament next year. Wembley will host seven matches, including the semi-finals and final.

In choosing to award the hosts for three finals at one time, UEFA has sought to take into account the demand for match tickets, along with the infrastructure in the host cities themselves. “The chosen venues have proper mobility, hotels and everything else,” said UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin, according to the AFP news agency.

“Where we have a problem, and probably will have a problem anywhere, is that sometimes hotels take advantage of the fact the Champions League final is in a certain city. I am sure that if you check those three cities in half an hour you will see that hotel prices have already started to rise. This is a problem but it is hard for us to influence. That is why we want to go to such big cities with so many hotels that in the end you can choose.”

UEFA has also assigned a host for the 2021 Europa League final. The Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán in Seville, Spain, home of Sevilla FC, landed the rights ahead of Dinamo Arena in Tbilisi, Georgia. Meanwhile, Windsor Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland, will host the 2021 Super Cup. The annual contest between the winners of the previous season’s Champions League and Europa League had also received bids from Dinamo Stadium in Minsk, Belarus; Olympic Stadium in Helsinki, Finland; and Metalist Stadium in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

UEFA also used its ExCo gathering in Ljubljana, Slovenia, to recommend that its 55 national associations and all European clubs choose not to play matches in countries where women have restricted access to stadia.

The issue of women’s access to football stadia has proved a hot topic in recent weeks. FIFA president Gianni Infantino last week urged Iranian authorities to allow women into football stadia and called for “positive developments” ahead of the national team’s next home match. Iranian women have been banned from entering football stadia for men’s matches for the past 40 years, with foreign women only having been granted limited access.

Of more direct connection to European football is the situation pertaining the staging of the Supercoppa Italiana in Saudi Arabia. UsigRai, the journalists’ union of broadcaster Rai, and the Italian division of Amnesty International last week intensified their pressure on Italian football stakeholders regarding the Supercoppa Italiana by calling on Serie A clubs Juventus and SS Lazio to boycott this season’s match.

On January 16, Juventus took part in the first edition of the Supercoppa to be held in Saudi Arabia, defeating AC Milan 1-0 at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah. The match has regularly been staged overseas in recent years, but Lega Serie A’s decision to enter into a long-term agreement with Saudi authorities resulted in criticism owing to concerns over human rights in the country, along with the activities of pirate sports broadcaster beoutQ.

Finally, UEFA has announced a major investment in tackling climate change issues around its staging of the Euro 2020 national team tournament. UEFA will plant 50,000 trees in each of the 12 host countries of the Euro to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the European Championships and in an effort to leave a lasting legacy from the competition.

In addition, UEFA said it will invest in gold standard renewable energy projects in partnership with the South Pole to offset the estimated 405,000 tonnes of carbon produced by fans and UEFA staff travelling to games in the tournament. The decision to stage a special edition of the tournament spread across the continent has led to criticism over travel costs and environmental issues.

Čeferin said: “UEFA Euro 2020 is a celebration of European football that will happen right across the continent. The nature of the tournament means there are many benefits over a traditional one. In addition to being able to take the matches to more diverse communities across Europe, there is no need either to build a host of new stadia or the transport links that they need, which carry a huge environmental cost in concrete and other resources.

“But it also has a cost – with increased travel for fans to watch their teams play. UEFA takes its responsibilities on this seriously and it is right that we offset the carbon emissions that causes. Working with South Pole will help to build gold standard renewable energy projects, which will be of lasting value to the planet.

“In addition, we wanted to celebrate the 60 years of the European Championships and combining that with an environmental legacy is a logical choice. Some 600,000 trees will be planted – 50,000 in each of the 12 host countries. I believe this will help all those communities benefit from Euro 2020 having been played there.”

Image: Gazprom Arena