About 10,000 England fans descended on Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, for the football team’s match against Italy on Sunday. Although this was more than expected, they only made up 10% of the crowd in the stadium. This shows many diehard fans’ passion for their team, traveling to Euro 2012 to conquer fears of racism against them.
With the combination of flight and accommodation expenses in Ukraine for the tournament and warnings that the event could be ruined by racism and violence, some England fans decided to stay home during the first phase of the competition. However, after an impressive draw against France and following wins against Sweden and Ukraine, England won more support. The 10,000 fans in attendance for the match against Italy was the biggest turnout for the team so far at Euro 2012. Some supporters even flew to Polish destinations and boarded overnight coaches or trains to make it to the match.
Euro 2012 is being jointly hosted by Ukraine and Poland, but all of England’s matches have been staged in Ukraine. This has created travel headaches for fans, with affordable flights to and accommodation in Ukraine being hard to come by – travel companies raised their prices – while expectations for the team had been low.
Before the match kicked off, Thomas Cook nearly filled its 200-seat flight for the semi-final on Thursday – at £449 per seat. Thomson Sport took many bookings for its 400-seat trip – which cost £499 per seat. Then within hours of the team securing its quarter-final tie against Italy, UK-based airlines reported a rise in flight bookings. British Airways had to deploy a bigger plane to deal with demand, and charter companies had to provide extra capacity. Fans already in Ukraine to support the team simply extended their stays.
However, after this rush by England fans to make it to Euro 2012 or extend their trip, the team was defeated in the quarter-final against Italy, losing on penalties. The match was goal-less, even after extra time. Ashley Cole and Ashley Young both missed kicks, and Italy won 4-2. Now some 20,000 supporters will have to scrap plans to travel to the semi-final on Thursday in Warsaw, Poland – a match that will now be played by Italy and Germany.
Although there was concern about violence and racism, police have praised England fans for their behaviour during the tournament. Leading a British police delegation to monitor the fans, Assistant Chief Constable Andy Holt says there were no arrests among England supporters. There were times when they got very lively, but they managed to intervene with their Ukrainian colleagues to prevent the behaviour from escalating.
In the UK, about 20 million people watched the match from home or in pubs and bars. This year saw a record television audience – topping even the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. The turnout has given the nation’s economy a shocking £2 billion boost. The British Beer & Pub Association said five million more pints were sold at pubs, and another three million were had at home. This boosted trade by £15 million. Tesco reportedly sold 25 million bottles and cans of beer, lager and cider before the match, and Sainsbury’s predicted alcoholic drink sales would rise 60%.
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