By Simon Evans
LJUBLJANA (Reuters) – European football’s governing body UEFA said it will plant 600,000 trees across 12 countries as part of its commitment to offset carbon emissions from travel to next year’s expanded European Championships but conceded it may have to do more.
The environmental impact of Euro 2020 will be much greater due to the unique pan-European staging of the event with UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin saying it will “pollute a lot”.
Instead of hosting matches in one or two countries, as is normal for major tournaments, UEFA is staging the 60th anniversary tournament in 12 countries across the European continent from Dublin, Ireland to Baku in Azerbaijan.
That format will mean much more travel for fans, officials and players and Ceferin said that while the one-off format meant there was no need for major stadium construction, there was clearly an environmental price to pay.
The Slovenian said UEFA had teamed up with carbon offset specialists South Pole to offset the estimated 405,000 tonnes of carbon produced by supporters and UEFA staff traveling to games in the tournament.
But he added that the soccer body now needed to focus on making a bigger contribution on green issues.
“We probably will have to do more. Not just us (officials0 but the fans will travel a lot. We will pollute a lot because of that. We will think about it,” he told a news conference after UEFA’s executive committee met in the Slovenian capital.
“We are thinking about doing more for the environment anyway, we have a children’s foundation and do a lot for children around the world… but we didn’t do much about the environment,” said Ceferin, who has been UEFA chief since 2016.
“We start to think about it now because you can’t protect children if there is no environment for them to live in.”
UEFA will plant 50,000 trees in each of the 12 host countries for the Euro 2020 tournament which will conclude with the semi-finals and final at Wembley Stadium in London.
The decision to hold a pan-European tournament was taken before Ceferin came to power at UEFA and he said it was unlikely to be repeated.
“Not just because of the environmental reasons but also it is very challenging for us to organdie an event like that, we have different legislation, we have (a) visa and non-visa system, we have European Union and non-European Union, we have Brexit which we don’t know if (the UK) is non-European Union or not,” he said.
“It is quite challenging and I don’t think we should organdie such a big event. It is symbolically very nice, pan-European, East, West, North, South, it is the 60th anniversary but to do it every time I would say it is too challenging.”
(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Toby Davis and Ken Ferris)