No one was sure of the scale of the Europa Conference League final when the inaugural season of UEFA’s new club competition kicked off in July. The planning had to be dynamic and, even before finalists Roma and Feyenoord were confirmed, they were ready for what project manager Rémi Decouacon described – on several occasions – “a huge operation”. He did not disappoint.
In this article presented by Engelbert Strauss, we find out how UEFA ensured Tirana’s magnificent national stadium was fit for the grand occasion that was the Europa Conference League final.
“It’s a huge operation not only in the National Arena but also in the whole city,” said Decouacon, standing on the immaculate field on the eve of the final. “We take charge of the arena ten days before the game itself and during those ten days we have to settle in, start from scratch and put everything in place.”
Of course, this involved the visual transformation of the site, the decoration of the bleachers of the stands in the colors of the competition as well as the installation of panels at the edge of the field, media and reception areas. UEFA’s special signaling team does the heavy lifting and the branding is not limited to the stadium.
The final organization in figures
385 volunteers (Albanian, Italian, Turkish)
380 Broadcast staff on site
230 artists and the pre-match ceremony team
170 accredited journalists and photographers
“It’s not just about a 90-minute football match, but also everything that happens in the city, with the meeting points for the fans and the fan festival,” continued Decouacon. More than 50,000 Roma and Feyenoord supporters descended on Tirana for the May 25 showpiece, and as soon as they entered the airport terminal they got a taste of what was to come .
Back at the stadium, senior football operations manager Reto Meier was busy making sure everything was going as smoothly as possible for the teams. For the previous 139 games in the 2021/22 Europa Conference League, the home team largely decides but, according to Meier, for the final “we effectively have two away teams and UEFA takes care of the organisation. “.
This organization is also granular: nothing is left to chance. Meier insists on this point: “We really line up so that everything is on the same side. If the dressing room is on the right side, the same goes for the bench of this team, where they warm up, everything – all on the same side. side, no crossing.” It’s also no coincidence that teams warm up in front of their own fans. Everything planned.
All the hard work was rewarded with a memorable final – for winners Roma, but also Feyenoord and even Albania. The country’s prime minister, Edi Rama, was delighted. “It’s the first time Albania has hosted a European final, something that would have been inconceivable before,” he told Tuttosport. “Everyone who came will no doubt come back one day, and now we have one of the most beautiful stadiums in Europe.”
The hard work was worth it.