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Turkey chosen as co-host for football’s Euro 2032

Turkey's bid to co-host Euro 2032 is likely to involve Ataturk Olypmic Stadium Giuseppe Maffia via Reuters Connect
Istanbul's Atatürk Olympic Stadium hosted the UEFA Champions League final match in June, and Turkey has several other large-capacity stadiums
  • Turkey to co-host with Italy
  • 5 stadiums in each country
  • Turkey has 8 stadiums with 40,000+ capacity

Turkey on Tuesday was awarded co-hosting rights for the Euro 2032 men’s soccer tournament in a decision that will provide a further boost to the country’s resurgent tourist industry and bring in much-needed additional foreign currency.

Turkey had sought to host Euro 2028 or Euro 2032 in their entirety but in July launched a joint bid to host Euro 2032 with Italy.

The country faces huge reconstruction costs from February’s devastating earthquake in the south, and last week withdrew from Euro 2028 bidding. 

In awarding 2032 hosting rights, European soccer’s governing body Uefa said five stadiums from each of Turkey and Italy would feature in the tournament. These will be selected by October 2026.

In June, Istanbul’s 74,753-capacity Atatürk Olympic Stadium staged the Uefa Champions League final between England’s Manchester City and Italy’s Internazionale, although fans attending the game complained of significant chaos.

Istanbul’s big three clubs – Galatasaray, Fenerbahce and Besiktas – each have their own stadiums, with capacities ranging from 42,590 to 52,223, according to Turkey’s football association.

“The most important factors (are) the conditions and suitability of the stadiums rather than the capacity,” said Caner İşbeğendiren, a Turkish football expert.

Turkey has four other stadiums that can hold more than 40,000 spectators, in the cities of Izmir, Bursa, Konya and Trabzon on Turkey’s Asian landmass.

The largest ground in Turkey’s capital, Ankara, has a capacity of just 21,092.

“Turkey already has established infrastructure, primarily centred around Istanbul,” said Simon Chadwick, professor of sport and geopolitical economy at Skema Business School in Paris.

“However, this needs to be replicated across the country. Progress still needs to be made in ensuring the smooth, rapid transit of large crowds.”

Economic turmoil

Turkey’s annual inflation reached a 10-month high of 61.5 percent in September and the lira has plunged 68 percent against the dollar in the past two years to slump to all-time lows.

Euro 2016 – the last European Championship unaffected by the Covid-19 pandemic – boosted host nation France’s economy by €1.2 billion ($1.27 billion), Uefa estimates.

“Turkey has the money to co-host Euro 2032, but it’s a question of its spending priorities,” said Guldem Atabay, an Izmir-based independent economist. “It seems strange to be thinking of an event in nearly 10 years’ time when we cannot even plan for tomorrow right now in Turkey.”

Turkey is also a net energy importer, so its tourism industry is especially important as the main generator of foreign currency.

The sector’s recovery to above pre-Covid levels of tourist visitors will keep Turkey’s current account deficit to 4.0-4.5 percent of GDP this year, said Atabay. Had tourism not rebounded, this deficit would have been around 6 percent, she said.

“The tourists are back, but the structure has changed – a decade ago, it was mostly Europeans,” said Atabay. “The Europeans still dominate but the number of visitors from the Middle East and Russia has increased substantially. The spending per capita is declining, though.”

In the second quarter of 2023, the most recently available official data, the tourism industry generated almost $13 billion in revenue, up from $10.5 billion a year earlier. Over the same period, visitor numbers rose 17.2 percent to 14 million.

Infrastructure spending

The recently built Istanbul Airport will be able to handle 200 million passengers annually by 2025. Sabiha Gökçen is Istanbul’s second airport. It is largely used by low-cost airlines and is located on the Asian side of the former capital.

“There have been dramatic improvements in the country’s infrastructure over the last two decades, though there is still some way to go,” said Chadwick. “One element of this is utilising sport mega-events to address regional disparities, notably by ensuring that stadia, transport facilities and civic infrastructure is of a comparable standard across the country.”

Turkey’s annual economic growth potential has fallen from 5.0-5.5 percent 10 years ago to around 3.5 percent this year and for the coming decade. This is a result of investment decisions by the ruling AK Party. It prioritised infrastructure and construction spending over investing in technology and education, said Atabay.

This neglect of education is pushing many of Turkey’s brightest young talents to emigrate, she said.

“If the government wants to keep unemployment in single digits, it needs to boost economic growth to 5-6 percent annually, which means that Turkey will be posting higher current account deficits and so getting inflation under control will be much tougher,” she said.

Hosting a tournament such as the 24-team, 51-game European men’s soccer Championship is both costly and complex, said Chadwick.

“Many countries have other spending priorities right now, which are being exacerbated by prevailing economic conditions,” he added. “This increasingly dictates that co-hosting is a more efficient, cost-effective way of being involved with mega-events.

“There is still some prestige associated with event hosting. Indeed, some countries see soft power and diplomatic opportunities in it.”

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