Euro 2020 has started with a bang with some high-quality football already on show in exciting fixtures such as Netherlands vs Ukraine and France vs Germany. A few thousand kilometres away, in Brazil, the Copa America 2021 is also underway amidst much noise.
A few weeks later, the Olympics are all set to take place in Tokyo and the football event always serves up exciting young talent. This summer is well and truly the summer of football and it could come to define the sport for years to come.
There was much uproar in April over the attempted coup of football by 12 of Europe’s biggest clubs. One of the reasons stated by the ringleader, Florentino Perez, was that the younger demographic does not want to spend 90 minutes watching a match and they do not have the attention span.
However, this justification was a stretch then and the positive response to the Euros and Copa shows just how wrong Perez was. Even after a long season of congested football, the appetite of football fans has not satiated and the audiences are only increasing.
PARABÉNS, MARACANÃ! 🏟👏
— Copa América (@CopaAmerica) June 16, 2021
International tournaments draw more eyeballs for simple reasons. Primarily, they are short and easy to follow. Club football seasons are 8 months long and for the new casual viewer, they may become confusing with different leagues and timings.
The second strong reason is that these tournaments offer a (usually) positive way of expressing your national identity. Participating teams have a sense of pride to defend on the field and the national jersey evokes strong emotions in supporters as well. Even fans from Asia and North America, whose countries aren’t participating, have an adoptive team that they feel they relate to in Europe or South America.
International tournaments are also more exciting as there is more at stake and a lot of the football played is knockout style. There are very few dead rubbers as opposed to a couple every weekend for eight months in domestic leagues.
DIFFERENT WAYS TO ENGAGE
The Euros especially have a large audience – partly down to the higher quality of football but also down to the fact that fan engagement ranks very high on UEFA’s priority list. They have fan parks, fantasy sports and fan contests in order to make sure that the supporters are active even when their team is not playing.
International tournaments are cash cows of regulatory bodies and little is done to hide it. Take the unfortunate events of the second day of Euros for example, when Denmark’s Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest on the field vs Finland.
Despite being in no state of mind to continue, the players had to return and complete the match or face a 3-0 default loss. This was done solely because of the money at stake with respect to sponsorship commitments and broadcasting deals.
The players too hold immense power. Cristiano Ronaldo wiped out 4 billion dollars value off of Coca Cola simply by replacing two bottles with water at a press conference.
WHAT THE SUMMER OF FOOTBALL COULD MEAN FOR THE SPORT
With so much football on display, there are bound to be new people attracted to the sport. FOMO at workplaces and in social circles may push new audiences to follow the tournaments. The general buzz will also intrigue some.
If the events of April were a breakup between football and its fans, the summer of 2021 is a reconciliatory second honeymoon period. The proverbial and literal party has just begun.