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What event planners can learn from the ‘Miracle of Anfield’

Something very interesting happened in English football this week… No, wait right there non-football fans, come back! It did, it really did! And it might just have repercussions for event planners.

It all kicked off with Liverpool performing miracles to beat Barcelona 4-0 at Anfield, as shocking a result as you’re ever likely to see. This was followed up with an equally dramatic result for Spurs in their semi-final against Ajax, while Chelsea and Arsenal also won their games.

Long story short, Chelsea and Arsenal are set to contest the Europa League Final in Baku, Azerbaijan, on 29 May, while Liverpool will play Spurs in the Champions League Final in Madrid on June 1.

There will be at least 12,000 fans making the 5,000 mile round trip to Azerbaijan, while 30,000 fans are expected to make the journey to Spain. And the main question everyone is asking is: why?

Why are Chelsea and Arsenal playing each other in a city 2,500 miles away when the clubs are less than 8 miles apart? With climate change all over the news, it does seem inexcusable.

I did a quick totting up of the carbon emissions associated with 12,000 fans taking economy class return flights from London to Baku. I got a top figure of more than 15,000 tonnes of CO2, which according to the US Environmental Protection Agency is the amount of emissions you’d get from running more than 3,000 cars for a year.

When you consider that most fans would be able to do the round trip to Wembley for less than a fiver on public transport, the whole thing seems demented. And that’s before you even factor in the 30,000 fans going to Madrid.

However, the interesting thing is that people are questioning it. Football is our national sport and will always attract attention, but if people are asking these questions about these games, you can bet your bottom dollar they’re going to be asking them about other events in the future. And yes, that includes your events.

Basically, as event planners, I would get ready to begin justifying air travel a lot more in the years to come. Because, rightly or wrongly, people are going to start questioning your events and travel plans a lot more.

There’s been a huge push on sustainability in the industry in recent years, so it will be less of an issue for some than others. But be warned; if the spotlight falls on you and you don’t have the answers, things might go as badly for you as they did for Barcelona at Anfield.

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