UEFA confirmed that Dublin will host the 2024 Europa League Final in the Aviva Stadium. This appointment was made after Dublin lost its right to host four matches of the EURO 2020 championship. The matches were moved to St Petersburg and London due to COVID-19 restrictions on stadium capacity in Ireland.
Dublin had been chosen in 2014 as one of the EURO 2020 host cities, based on the FAI bid dossier. Bid requirements for hosts for the UEFA tournaments and EUROs are set by UEFA and include Social and Governance requirements.
Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria are non-financial metrics that allow individuals, bodies and entities to make decisions based on an entity’s impact on others and the environment. From a social and governance perspective, these criteria include attention to human rights issues and anti-corruption. UEFA usually refers to such criteria as “Social Responsibility and Sustainability”.
The 2021 Bid Regulations for UEFA Finals and Final Phases (Bid Regulations) do not expressly mention ESG criteria but do provide, in Chapter III, “Principles of Fairness and Ethical Conduct”, that bidders must conduct themselves in a dignified and ethical manner throughout the bidding process. This includes not receiving or giving gifts and exercising financial moderation.
The UEFA EURO 2020 Tournament Requirements (2020 Requirements) include “Social Responsibility and Sustainability” as one of the 13 aspects of a final tournament organisation. Host cities needed to integrate “social responsibility according to the new international standards by including, social, economic and environmental considerations into all stages, from UEFA EURO 2020 planning to implementation and post-event legacy”. It required host cities to provide a sustainable event management system, accessible and tobacco free stadiums, free local public transportation, healthy food options, implement inclusion measures such as audio-commentary for partially sighted and blind persons, and use a minimum of 50% of energy from renewable sources.
Similarly, UEFA EURO 2024 Tournament Requirements (2024 Requirements) lists “Political, Social and Environmental Aspects” as one aspect of the tournament organisation. Bidders are invited to adopt industry certifications such as ISO 20121 (an event sustainability management system) and apply anti-corruption standards. The human rights inclusion, along with the environmental, social and economic dimensions, represent a notable shift in focus from the 2020 Requirements. Bidders must “respect, protect and fulfil human rights and fundamental freedoms, with a duty to respect human, labour and child rights” throughout the bidding process until the conclusion of EURO 2024. Compliance indicators include comprehensive risk assessments for corruption, fraud and other criminal acts and unethical behaviour, as well as a compliance management system in line with international standards.
The UEFA EURO 2020 Evaluation Report (EURO 2020 Report) states that social responsibility and sustainability criteria have been “consistently developed and explained to a high standard” in the FAI’s bid.
An example of these criteria being applied can be found in the UEFA Club Competition Finals 2020 Evaluation Report (Club Finals 2020 Report). The Portuguese FA applied to be the host of the Champions League Final. UEFA found that the bid did not meet the social responsibility and sustainability criteria due to the lack of commitments surrounding the match day experience:
“The FPF does not confirm a city-wide combi-ticket system of free public transport for match ticket-holders, nor a tobacco-free environment at the stadium. The number of wheelchair-user seats is below expectations. Overall, the FPF proposal does not meet the social responsibility and sustainability criteria.”
Football is not alone in putting the onus on prospective host nations to consider sustainability and social responsibility as part of their bid. The organising committee for the 2023 Rugby World Cup has claimed that the event will be “the most socially responsible and sustainable rugby event ever”. The International Olympic Committee also included sustainability as one of three ‘Key Pillars’ of the Olympic Agenda for the 2020 games.
Individuals and bodies (public or private) need to be cognisant of ESG criteria, whether from an environmental, social or governance perspective. These criteria will continue to increase in importance for business assessments and crucial decision-making, such as awarding a contract or a tender for services.
Contributed by Patrick Murphy & Karolina Rozhnova