The financial turnover of the European Championships is almost $2 billion, a 50 per cent increase over the previous tournament. And because the finals have become a "cash cow" for UEFA, European soccer's governing body maintains strict control over all off-field aspects of the tournament by dictating events, rules and information, writes Peter Birrer in the Swiss daily.
Sponsors invest so much money in the finals that they want a lot in return, and so the tournament is now run in their interests. Staff employed by UEFA, in any capacity and at any level, are sworn to silence. Meanwhile, the national associations adopt a bunker mentality, locking their teams behind the gates of luxury hotels and showing off their players at maybe two or three public training sessions. Although sheltering players from the "ever increasing and to some extent aggressive" media was understandable, the exclusion of the public showed traces of paranoia.
Where will it all lead, asks Birrer? "Maybe one day fans will be told what clothes to wear to the stadium, what brand of underwear they can have on, and which toilet they can use." And yet, the public fascination for the game "purges all wrongs." The people don't want to let go of "the game with its billions, with its emotions, with its dictates and strict rules." The game that, in stark contrast to its tight packaging, "at Euro 2008 has been played on the field with an open attitude and a free spirit."