I know nothing about football. Other than a good game of rugby, sport doesn’t really interest me much.
When my editor started talking about the Champions League and Europa League finals, I pretended to be interested, knowing that I wouldn’t understand a word he said.
Until he pointed out that all four teams are British and all four, and their entourage, and their fans, will be travelling thousands of miles to play a game of football, a game that could easily be played here in Britain.
Here are some figures. Liverpool will play Tottenham Hotspurs in Madrid, and fans have been allocated 32,000 tickets. Madrid is 761 miles from Gatwick. The cheapest air ticket I could find for this trip was £135.
That’s £4,320,000 and 24,352,000 miles just for the fans that get a ticket, let alone those that will go and hope to get one there, the players and supporting staff themselves, families etc.
Arsenal will play Chelsea in Baku, and fans have been allocated 12,000 tickets. Baku is 2,900 miles from the British coast. The cheapest flight was £563. That’s £6,756,000 and 34,800,000 miles, just for ticketed fans.
This seems absolutely crazy to me. My publisher then pointed out that of course no-one knew who would be in the final and the matches have to be held somewhere.
The organisation of the stadium, the staff, the merchandise, the hotels, the transport, the catering and everything else that goes with such a big match HAS to be sorted in advance, it can’t wait until the competing final teams are known because that doesn’t leave enough time for everything to be organised.
This is a very valid point and I don’t know what the answer is, other than surely there must be another way. This then got me thinking about how much the government spend on sport versus the environment.
According to Sport UK, the organisation that gives out government funding, they have received a total of £341,397,115 to hand out to British athletes in funding for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. This includes over £30 million for rowing and over £12 million for para athletics.
In last year’s government budget, there was £600,000,000 allocated for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Looking more closely (and I’m sure governmental policy is specifically laid out to confuse and bamboozle the lowly member of the public) this is broken down as follows – Industrial Energy Transformation Fund – As part of the Industrial Strategy, the government will establish an Industrial Energy Transformation Fund, backed by up to £315 million of investment, to support businesses with high energy use to transition to a low carbon future and to cut their bills through increased energy efficiency.
Tackling air quality – £20 million
Flood risk management – £13 million
Plastics and waste innovation funding – £20 million
Supporting abandoned waste site clearance – A government pilot scheme will make available up to £10 million to the Environment Agency
Funding for tree planting – the government will set up a Woodland Carbon Guarantee scheme which will support the planting of around 10 million trees by purchasing up to £50 million of carbon credits for qualifying tree planting.
The government will also provide £10 million funding between 2019-20 and 2022-23 for local community street trees and urban trees. Supporting the UK fishing sector – £10 million. Avoiding food waste – £15 million to charities and others to distribute accessible edible food that would otherwise be thrown away.
All this adds up to £413 million if you don’t include the carbon credits. I can’t find out what’s happening with the other £187 million; let’s hope it’s been put into a piggy bank for the farmers if they suddenly find themselves destitute if we end up leaving the EU with a bad deal.
As a final thought, our government are looking to spend over £50 billion on defence in 2020. That’s billion, not million. But at least I’m glad (maybe controversially) that the environment comes out above sport when it comes to financial priorities.