The first-ever EURO final golden goal, Arjen Robben’s last-minute European Cup final winner, Geoff Hurst’s World Cup final hat-trick, Paul Gascoigne’s EURO ‘96 magic, the Mighty Magyars of 1953 – just a handful of the vivid moments football fans associate with the stadium that many consider the home of the sport: Wembley.
In a tournament being played throughout Europe, it feels fitting that the outcome will be decided on Sunday in this corner of north-west London. It is one of those few venues whose mystique crosses borders and conjures dreams of lifting a trophy there among players from all over the world.
A natural home for the final
Wembley has played its own memorable part in European Championship history, and especially a quarter of a century ago, when it was at the heart of a tournament still remembered fondly in England. The stadium has been completely renovated since then – the twin towers swapped for the arch. It has lost none of its magic, though, and it is ready for another major final.
That London is one of the world’s great cities is not in question, but it also has a close connection with football. The Laws of the Game were first drawn up in a Covent Garden pub in 1863, it is the home to the FA Cup final and there are 12 professional clubs from the English capital playing in the country’s top four tiers.
While the tournament has unfolded across the continent, Wembley has been the most in use, staging eight games, including both semi-finals and the final. It is, of course, no stranger to big matches. Wembley has hosted a record seven European Cup finals. It was also where England’s national team – the Three Lions – lifted the World Cup’s Jules Rimet trophy in 1966, and there was, of course, that wonderful summer of EURO ’96.
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Preparing for action
It has been no mean feat to ensure the return of the finals – after a delay of 12 months following the onset of COVID-19.
As is the case across Europe, the pandemic has had, and continues to have an enormous financial impact in England, with significant revenue streams lost across broadcasting, sponsorship, events and hospitality.
UEFA’s HatTrick programme has helped to fund Wembley’s ongoing operational costs, contributing to upgrades thatensured it met UEFA EURO 2020 final tournament criteria and requirements.
“To get this tournament away in the first place is a phenomenal achievement by all those involved,” says Chris Bryant, head of tournament delivery at The Football Association (FA).
“From an operational point of view, we of course hope for a smooth and safe delivery in the face of a number of challenges. On top of that, we want to support UEFA in putting on a show befitting of the occasion.
“We have to thank our local authorities, partners and government for all their efforts in ensuring Wembley can remain the focal point of such a huge global tournament,” Bryant adds. “It has been a massive stakeholder effort, with each and every one of them playing their part. The fact that their commitment hasn’t wavered throughout speaks volumes for how important the tournament is to us all.”
The Three Lions reached both the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup and 2019 UEFA Nations League, and have a young squad intent on making their own mark at football’s most famous venue.
However, just the celebration of helping to hold this tournament is victory enough for now. “Wembley Stadium was built to host major events,” says Chris Bryant, “and to host the EURO final after what has been such a challenging year for all will be a very special moment indeed.”
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