Every two years another major tournament rolls around and England fans are normally dusting their shorts and St. George’s flags off before travelling on mass and taking over several cities (except for 2008 thanks to the Wally with the brolly). This year it’s different. It’s is believed that England have brought numbers in the low thousands to the tournament, which seems odd considering how many followed them to South Africa in 2010, with around 25,000 fans travelling, and to Japan and Korea on 2002.
One of the main concerns for fans is the cost. Given the current financial climate it’s difficult to justify such luxury spending, especially when many will have a family who will want to go on holiday as well. As soon as the hosts are chosen, the cost of hotel rooms and flights nearly quadruple as they know they will sell. Unfortunately for most men they will have the voice of reason telling them to go to Marbella instead.
After being awarded the Championships, the Ukraine government believed that over one million football fans would enter the country in June. However, the State Boarder Guard Service has said that only 37,000 fans have entered the country since the start of the tournament. England’s opener against France was attended by 47,400 fans, but it is reported that only 2,800 England fans attended and only 550 from France.
Cost isn’t the only issue. Racism is a problem in Poland and Ukraine and it has already been witnessed by a number of teams. Maverick Mario Balotelli has even threatened to walk off the pitch if he is racially abused and UEFA have said very little to help deal with the problem.
Violence is also a concern. Although the England fans are often accused of being hooligans, it is worried that with elements of the former Soviet Union coming together with Russia, there will be trouble. There have already been fights between Russian and Polish fans in Poland which started when around five thousand Russian fans marched to Poniatowski Bridge in the capital to mark Russia Day. After suffering under the rule of Russia during the Cold War many fans took this as a form of provocation and over 183 arrests were made.
Ukraine has suffered from a lack of pro-active PR activity. Since they were awarded the Championships in 2007 there has been very little coming out of Ukraine to draw more than just football fans in. Once the tournament is over, Ukraine will be left with a number of four and five star hotels that they are going to struggle to fill. Like the UK with the Olympics, now is the time that they need to start promoting all that is good about their country if they are to leave any sort of legacy.