If you haven’t taken a minute this week to contemplate how mad the UEFA Super Cup venues have been in the last few years, then I’d encourage you to do so now.
Despite generally featuring two of the biggest sides in Europe every year, UEFA have clearly left the job of sorting out a venue for the Super Cup to some young intern in on work experience. Stade Louis II in Monaco hosted the annual curtain-raiser to the European season for 15 years, from 1998 until 2012. An odd enough choice, not least because the principality’s sole stadium can only hold 18,000 spectators, all of whom are separated from the pitch by a full-size running track. In a further ironic twist, Monaco itself isn’t even represented as an affiliate under the UEFA flag.
Perhaps a blind eye or two could’ve been turned towards holding the game on the high streets of Monte Carlo for so long. Maybe the question marks surrounding the August fixture could’ve been dismissed for relatively blatant tax evasion purposes, or even for the fact that the Stade Louis II is one of the most original and picturesque-looking grounds in world football.
AS Monaco's stadium…. just wow pic.twitter.com/IrqvJWVZzM
— Matt Craig (@MattHDGamer) March 15, 2017
But since 2012, all sense and rationale seems to have been lost. 2013 started the madness, as Slavia Prague’s 21,000 seater stadium was used, despite an abundance of venues across the continent that were literally three times bigger than the Czech Republic’s Eden Arena. Cardiff were the next non-descript European city to be chosen out of the blue. But instead of taking advantage of the 74,500 capacity Millenium Stadium, which itself would go on to host a European Cup final three years later, Infantino and the boys opted for Cardiff City’s ground. It was a no-brainer. Mainly because the lad who made the decision had no brain.
In 2015, the capacity problem was finally sorted. The only problem was that it was so far away that barely anyone knew how to find it on a map, let alone get there. Tbilisi, which is 500km closer to Islamabad than it is to Paris, hosted the thrilling all-Spanish affair, which finished 5-4 in between Sevilla and Barcelona. Wikipedia says that the stadium can hold just over 50,000 spectators, but that its’ record attendance is 110,000 from an international match in the nineties. Must have been some squeeze that.
In a continued effort to avoid the EU at all costs, 2016 saw UEFA then select the Lerkendal Stadion. No, me neither. Apparently its’ Rosenborg’s home ground. You don’t know who Rosenborg are? Well neither do UEFA, but it made plenty of sense at the time.
Clearly missing going to stadiums named after niche, suave European princes, last year’s showdown went to Macedonia, specifically the Philip II Arena. I can’t say a lot bad about this one. A bit of a random place for a final, and that’s saying something considering the bedlam that is this competition, but overall with 34,000 seats, and having being revamped in 2011, its’ relatively normal. Certainly compared to Tbilisi. And it puts Lansdowne Road’s roof curve to shame. Big time.
Game likely to be moved to Philip II Arena, a 33,000 capacity stadium in Skopje. pic.twitter.com/c8J6XcfkVx
— West Mids Loyal (@WestMidsLoyal) June 20, 2018
But then there was 2018. The lads really outdid themselves this time around. Tallinn, 15,000 seats, home to a team who have never reached the group stage of a European competition, and who in 2016 lost to the champions of Gibraltar, Lincoln Red Imps, in the Champions League qualifiers. Also, the A. Le Coq Arena is far too easy to make a vulgar headline out of. But yeah, it was the obvious choice. It’s’ as if the game was meant to be held at the San Siro, but with a day’s notice Berlusconi has rung up the two Madrid sides to tell them they’re double booked. UEFA have rang around Europe to see if there’s a pitch available, and F.C. Flora Tallinn have done them a favour, just requesting that they lock up the ground when they’re done. Glorious.
Sadly though, we’re coming to the end of this wonderful era of nonsensical planning and blatant disregard for basic logistics. Istanbul and Porto have been selected as the next two host cities, boasting a staggering average of a 45,000 capacity between them. Maybe it’s no coincidence that with all these venues announced two years in advance, that the wild decision making came to an end in 2016, the same time that mainstream corruption in both FIFA and UEFA came to end, kind of.
Pleased to announce that my back garden will be following in the footsteps of Skopje and Tallinn, and will be hosting next year's UEFA Super Cup final.
— Liam Ó Duibhiolla (@TGTTGA) August 16, 2018
So farewell Monaco and so long Tbilisi. The reasons behind your right to host some of sports’ biggest names was questionable, to say the least, but for all your flaws and lack of ability to hold 70,000 people, you showed us how wonderfully mad and weird modern-day football can be.
To anyone who received A-Level results, or the international equivalent. Don’t worry, it doesn’t define you. I knew a lad who failed Geography with 23% in his final exam, he’s currently working for UEFA trying to decide the 2021 Super Cup venue.