The 52nd UEFA Europa League (formerly known as Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, then UEFA Cup) is taking place at a packed Puskás Arena tonight, on Wednesday, 31 May in Budapest, Hungary. The tickets to all 63,000 available seats have been long sold out (or given out to special guests, mostly to people connected to UEFA’s major sponsors). In fact, local Hungarian football fans who wanted to see the great spectacle had to enter a draw, and had to be lucky enough to be randomly picked to able to purchase a ticket.
But the big night has come. The Spanish Sevilla has won the secondary European competition six times, more than any other club in history—in fact, they have twice as many titles as Liverpool, Inter, Juventus, and Atletico Madrid tied in second place on the all-time list with three. What’s more, the Andalusians have never even lost an EL final, they are six for six so far.
AS Roma from Italy, on the other hand, have only won this title once, in 1961. However, they did triumph in the inaugural season of UEFA’s tertiary club competition, the Conference League, last year. Also,
their head coach José Mourinho of Portugal, who’s had the most media attention ahead of the Budapest final, has never lost a European club final in his long career.
His record is five for five to date, which includes two Champions League titles, one with major underdogs FC Porto back in 2004.
Neither team had a particularly great season in their domestic championships: Sevilla FC is currently in 11th place in the Spanish La Liga; while AS Roma sits in 6th place in the Italian Serie A.
Fan Zone Opens at Heroes’ Square in Budapest
The host city of Budapest is preparing for the influx of fans coming from Spain, Italy, and all over the world. The so-called Fan Zone has already opened its doors to the public at Heroes’ Square, where anyone can engage in all kinds of football-related activities, such as sharpshooting, foosball, and five-a-side football matches.
State Secretary for Sport Ádám Schmidt was also present at the festive site. He told the Hungarian sports daily Nemzeti Sport
‘Budapest is in the crosshair of cameras again, the football world is talking about us, paying attention to us again’.
He went on to say that he would like to see the primary European club competition, the UEFA Champions League’s final to be played in Budapest as well, for which 2026 is the earliest plausible date. MLSZ Chairman Sándor Csányi shared the exact same opinion about a month ago.
The official ambassador to the final is former Hungarian international Zoltán Gera (with 97 caps), who played in the first-ever final held under the UEFA Europa League name back in 2010. However, his team, the English Fulham, ended up losing to Atletico Madrid from Spain. He too visited the Fan Zone, and joined in some friendly games of foosball with fans. Also present at the event were Hungary’s newly founded amputee football team Mozdulj SE, who played an exhibition game against Stal Rzeszów from Poland.
The Economics of the Budapest Europa League Final
The Hungarian news magazine HVG ran a piece on their website, analysing if it is ‘worth’ for the capital city to host the EL final. In their analysis, they are calculating with
40–44 thousand people coming to Budapest specifically to see the big game.
They then go on to cite numbers by the Central Statistical Office, which claim tourists coming from abroad spend HUF 31,600 a day on average. They also note that hotels are expected to raise their per-night prices for the day of the final. The ticket sales revenue goes to UEFA and the participating teams, the host city gets none.
They are juxtaposing this with the HUF 60.5 billion that is dedicated to the organisation of designated international sporting events in the Cabinet Office’s budget plans; and with the additional HUF 13.4 billion in the Defence Ministry’s budget for securing these events.