By Tony Attwood
One of the key issues in football at the moment is that there is a complete disconnect between the authorities such as Fifa, Uefa, the Football Association etc, and the people who go to football matches and the local authorities who have to pay for the impact of such matches.
I have mentioned this multiple times, for example in writing about the Euro final in which the FA’s grotesque incompetence at handling the final left many people injured and in distress, and businesses facing massive clear up charges, for which there has not even been an apology let alone compensation to those who were affected.
Now it appears that the football associations of England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland are all ganging up to host the 2028 European Championship, without giving any clue as to who is going to stump up the cost of holding such an event. But we know who it will be: the local authorities, which means, local tax payers.
There’s no recognition that these are countries in a mega-economic-crisis, as a result of the corona pandemic and general economic mismanagement thereafter, with local and regional authorities utterly unable to cope with changing levels of demand, staff shortages and above all raging inflation. They can’t increase their incomes very readily, but prices all around them are going up by the day.
Local authorities are only able to increase their income once a year, and that increase is limited by government regulation, but inflation is rising month by month. It is quoted at the moment at 9.4%, but in March it was 7%, and in July 2021 it was 2%. At this rate, in a year’s time it will be approaching 40%.
With this sort of rise in inflation going it is likely that the government will set a fund to be made available to local authorities to prepare for the European Championship, only to find that as building and preparation takes place, the inflation bonus itself will be inadequate but the local authorities that are told to “see to it” in the imperious manner of governments across the UK (I can’t speak for Ireland) will not get any extra cash.
As a result of this, the Telegraph is now suggesting that “Debt-ridden cities could boycott the joint United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland bid for the 2028 European Championship in protest at being forced to foot a multi-million-pound bill for hosting matches.”
In fact by forcing local government to pay for the 2028 European Championship, the national governments will take all the credit for hosting the event across the UK and Ireland, Uefa will make billions, and us poor taxpayers will foot the bill. Again.
As part of the attempt to get away with this financial three-card trick, it seems the football associations have given football clubs and local authorities just one month to put themselves forward for inclusion as host venues, and clubs and authorities are backing away from the offer at full speed.
Uefa, which as ever simply waves its non-magic wand and tells everyone else just to “get on with it” says it requires 10 stadia with five in England, and five spread between the other countries in the group.
And here’s the twist. Uefa demand that they and their commercial partners and the regional football associations get “all required and necessary public land, public facilities and public infrastructure” and “all basic services”, including electricity, water, waste management and cleaning, free of charge.
So while our local authorities and the services they provide are rapidly sinking into economic chaos, they will now have to stump up money for loads of extra services so that the FAs of each country, and of course Uefa, can make another load of money.
This is how the grossly incompetent and inept FA survives – by taking other people’s money. In fact as a taxpayer in the UK,I should say “my money.” In fact as the Telegraph suggests, between ” a quarter and half the total bill involved for staging matches” will be paid by the local authorities.
And just consider what that means. In the town where I live, the number of times a year refuse is collected from houses has just been cut because the council is running out of money. School buildings are not being repaired because the council is running out of money. Local roads are not being repaired because the council is running out of money.
And if by any chance the Euros make a profit, there is no mechanism for any of that profit to go back to the councils. It will all be kept by central government, and is estimated by the Telegraph to be “in excess of £1 billion on Euro 2028 – even more if it voted to expand the competition from 24 to 32 teams in the coming weeks.”
Thankfully however the finals might not come our way. Turkey and Russia have also made submissions of interest so the finals might go there. We can only hope so. (Fifa still allows Russian delegates to attend its conferences and meetings, so Uefa might well follow suit).
Our one hope is that if the British Isles wins the bid, cities which are already crumbling with debt might simply decline to stage the games.
Uefa said in a statement, “We would also expect a tournament of this size and scope to deliver significant societal, trade, wellbeing and tourism benefits.”
This film shows how it works.