The prospect of the three major European finals draws much excitement and anticipation among football fans. These finals transcend national borders and engage fans from all corners of the continent with the final. However, the environmental impact of long-distance travel, which is done primarily by air, draws concerns about the carbon emissions associated with these high-profile events.
Fans from Manchester and Milan will travel to Istanbul. Fans from Sevilla and Rome will travel to Budapest. And fans from London and Florence will travel to Prague.
As the 2022/23 football season is reaching its conclusion, the expected emissions which will result from these finals call for a reevaluation of the locations and the manner of transport which will be used to travel there to mitigate the environmental impact. By moving the finals, we can reduce the emissions from fan travel by up to 95% for the Champions League final.
UEFA has promised to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030 and become fully carbon neutral by 2040 by subscribing to the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework. This cannot be done without reorganising the football calendar to become smaller and more local. Instead, UEFA only expands the football calendar. The finals for these competitions are also held in cities far away from the cities of the participating teams. If the matches were to be moved closer to the cities of the final two teams, emissions from fan travel can be cut drastically. This can be an important first step in redesigning European football for the climate crisis era.
To better understand how much of a problem we are facing. For the Champions League final the expected emissions are 7,066,860Kg CO2. On the other hand, if we were to move the final to Paris again and all fans would the train the emissions would be reduced to 319,578.6Kg CO2. It would be a reduction of 95.5%. The amount saved would equate to the yearly emissions of 1000 Europeans. For the Europa League final it would amount to a 73.3% decrease in emissions from 3964770 Kg CO2 to 518110.41 Kg CO2 which is equal to the yearly emissions of 283 Europeans. For the Conference League final it would equate to an 82% decrease in emissions, from 844870 Kg CO2 to 151660 Kg CO2 which is equal to the yearly emissions of 68 Europeans. This is a significant difference that highlights the potential environmental benefits of reconsidering the location and transportation methods for these major sporting events.
To structurally lower emissions of European football, UEFA can essentially do three things. First, they can make the competitions more regional, adding train connections between cities as a criterion in organising the group stages. This would reduce the need for extensive long-distance flights and enable more matches to be reached by more environmentally friendly transportation options. This will also lower the financial and practical barriers to attending a European match of your local team, making football more accessible.
Secondly, reducing the number of participating teams and possibly the number of competitions is a must. This will also positively impact players, who often complain about being overburdened by the increasing amount of matches played each year.,
Finally, the UEFA and clubs can work together with train and bus companies to facilitate easy and affordable low-carbon travel.
The UEFA has a long way to go in reducing its emissions. Adapting the location of the final to the different finalists is an important first step.
Example calculations Champions League final 2022/2023
Manchester City vs Inter Milan.
Location stadium: Istanbul, Turkey.
Capacity stadium: 76092.
Both teams get 20000 tickets which will be 40000 in total.
UEFA held a public ballot on their website for 7,500 of those tickets.
The remaining 24,500 are reserved for the local organisers, UEFA, national football associations, commercial partners and broadcasters.
Manchester City distance to Istanbul 2696 Km 0.078Kg CO2 / RPK for flying.
Manchester City distance to Paris 603 Km.
278Km 0.006Kg CO2 / RPK for going by Eurostar.
322Km by national rail 0.041Kg CO2 / RPK.
2696Km*20000*0.078Kg CO2= 4205760 KG CO2 For Man City supporters to Istanbul by plane.
20000*(278*0.006+322*0.041)=297400 Kg CO2 For Man City supporters to Paris by train.
Inter Milan distance to Istanbul 1683 Km 0.085Kg CO2 / RPK.
Inter Milan distance to Paris 641 Km 0.00173Kg CO2 / RPK.
1683Km*20000*0.085Kg CO2 = 2861100 KG CO2 For Inter supporters to Istanbul by plane.
641*20000*0.00173= 22178.6 Kg CO2 For Inter supporters to Paris by train.
Difference in CO2 emissions from moving from Istanbul to Paris and only taking the train = (4205760+2861100)-(297400+22178.6)= 6,747,281.4Kg CO2.
((297,400+22,178.6)−(4,205,760+2,861,100))÷(4,205,760+2,861,100)×100%= -95.47% Decrease in emissions if you go by train.
((4,205,760+2,861,100)−(297,400+22,178.6))÷(297,400+22,178.6)×100%= 2111.3% Increase in emissions if you go by plane.
Example calculations Europa League final 2022/2023
Sevilla vs AS Roma.
Location stadium: Budapest, Hungary.
Capacity stadium: 63000.
Both teams get 15000 tickets which will be 30000 in total.
UEFA held a public ballot on their website for 16800 of those tickets.
The remaining 16200 tickets are reserved for the local organisers, UEFA, national football associations, commercial partners and broadcasters.
Sevilla distance to Budapest 2327 Km 0.078Kg CO2 / RPK.
Sevilla distance to Marseille 1165 Km.
819Km by 0.005Kg CO2 / RPK.
346Km by 0.00173Kg CO2 / RPK.
2327Km150000.078Kg CO2= 2722590 Kg CO2 for Sevilla supporters to Budapest by plane.
15000(8190.005+346*0.00173)= 512663.7 KG CO2 for Sevilla supporters to Marseille by train.
Rome distance to Budapest 804 Km 0.103Kg CO2 / RPK.
Rome distance to Marseille 900 Km 0.05 Kg CO2 / RPK by train.
804Km150000.103Kg CO2= 1242180Kg CO2 for Roma Supporters to Budapest by plane. 15000(7200.05+1800.00173)= 544671Kg Co2 for Roma supporters to Marseille by train.
Difference in CO2 emissions from moving from Budapest to Marseille and only taking the train = (2722590+1242180)-(512663.7+544671)= 2,907,435.3Kg CO2.
((512,663.7+5,446.71)−(2,722,590+1,242,180))÷(2,722,590+1,242,180)×100%= -73.3% decrease in emissions if you go by train instead of plane.
((2,722,590+1,242,180)-(2,722,590+1,242,180))÷(512,663.7+5,446.71)×100%= 665.23% increase in emissions if you go by plane instead of train.
Example calculations Conference League final 2022/2023
West Ham United vs Fiorentina.
Location stadium: Prague, Czech Republic.
Capacity stadium: 19370.
Both teams get 5000 tickets which will be 10000 in total.
The remaining 9370 tickets were made available via a UEFA ticket ballot.
London distance to Prague 1030 Km 0.088 Kg CO2 / RPK.
London distance to Lyon 740 Km.
340Km 0.006Kg CO2 / RPK for going by Eurostar.
400Km 0.00173Kg CO2 / RPK for going by TGV.
1030Km50000.088Kg CO2= 453200Kg CO2 for West Ham supporters to Prague by plane.
5000(4000.00173+340*0.006) = 13660Kg Co2 for West Ham supporters to Lyon by train.
Florence distance to Prague 739 Km 0.106 Kg CO2 / RPK.
Florence distance to Lyon 552 Km 0.05Kg CO2 / RPK4.
739Km50000.106Kg CO2= 391670Kg CO2 for Fiorentina supporters to Prague by plane.
552Km50000.05Kg CO2= 138000Kg CO2 for Fiorentina supporters to Lyon by train.
Difference in CO2 emissions from moving from Prague to Lyon and only taking the train = (453200+391670)-(13660+138000)= 693210Kg CO2.
((13660+138000)-(453200+391670))÷(453200+391670)×100%= -82% decrease in emissions if you go by train instead of plane.
((453200+391670)-(13660+138000))÷(13660+138000)×100%= 457% increase in emissions if you go by plane instead of train.
For more background on these calculations, you can check our method.