There can only be pride and satisfaction after a UEFA EURO that performed outstandingly on many fronts including the quality of play from the 24 teams and the festive atmosphere created by fans.
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The UEFA EURO 2016 party may almost be over – but a feeling of pride and achievement prevails as the tournament in France reaches its closing moments.
On Friday, UEFA and its organising partner EURO 2016 SAS took the opportunity at the Stade de France – setting for Sunday's final between Portugal and France – to thank everyone who has helped to make UEFA EURO 2016 such a memorable experience, as well as to provide key facts and figures emphasising the overall popularity and impact of the finals.
UEFA first vice-president Ángel María Villar Llona thanked France for its outstanding hosting of UEFA EURO 2016, which he described as a "magnificent event", and the French people for their welcome and hospitality. "The tournament and its festive atmosphere," he said, "has shown Europe's love of life and has provided an authentic lesson for society."
The economic impact of UEFA EURO 2016 for France has been considerable, amounting to over €1.2bn according to key studies. Around 100,000 people have been employed for the tournament; 20,000 jobs were created for the construction and renovation of stadiums; and 25,000 full-time jobs have resulted from the economic impact alone. Another significant legacy sees encouraging funding for sports infrastructures in the EURO host cities.
In particular, UEFA EURO 2016 has been a resounding public success. Some 2.4 million spectators will have watched the 51 matches, and the event's popularity was such that a total of just over 11.2 million requests were made by the general public for tickets to see many of Europe's best players in action.
The ten fan zones across France have attracted 3.6 million people to savour the EURO atmosphere. "Throughout the tournament, we have been very impressed by the amazing love, dedication and passion that fans were sharing for their national teams inside and outside stadiums," said UEFA's chief of communications and media, Pedro Pinto.
Television audiences have also been fantastic thanks to the efforts of more than 130 broadcast partners, allied to a host of TV broadcast innovations. A cumulative live audience of six billion viewers is expected to have watched the matches, with more than 300 million likely to tune into Sunday's showpiece at the Stade de France.
Iceland's wonderful run to the quarter-finals especially caught that country's imagination. Remarkably, only 298 people in Iceland decided to watch another TV programme at the same time as the coverage of Iceland's round of 16 victory over England – a game which therefore recorded an astonishing 99.8% market share.
There have been a record 300 million visitors to the official tournament website, EURO2016.com, compared to 88 million in 2012, with over 1.5 billion page views. The official EURO app has generated 12.5 million downloads overall, while Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts grew by more than 15 million people.
A comprehensive anti-doping programme has seen a total of nearly 1,900 samples analysed in and out-of-competition since January, with all tests negative, while the French authorities and their partners have been praised for their diligent safety and security work throughout the country.
Corporate social responsibility campaigns have also made their mark – for example, the #CelebrateFootball campaign has promoted five key areas of Respect: diversity, fan culture, health, environment and stadium access for all. The EURO has met key sustainability targets, and successful youth projects have given young people and children the chance to play a full part in the festivities.
On the field, the 18 referee teams, featuring 94 match officials from 21 national associations, have shown the benefit of UEFA's attention to them with excellent performances. The tactical studies now done by match officials are felt to have helped their ability to take the right decisions, in particular with regard to offside.
"UEFA would also like to praise the behaviour and fair play of players and coaches during this tournament," said Pinto. "We noticed that there has been a lot less dissent and mobbing of referees, and we're very pleased to see that."
The action on the pitch in the first EURO to involve 24 teams has been hard-fought and has contained a number of surprises. "There were many pleasant [ones], but if I had to name one surprise in particular, the biggest has to be Iceland," said UEFA General Secretary ad interim Theodore Theodoridis about the Nordic team's journey to the last eight.
"The tournament has been very competitive and we are very happy at the quality [of football] shown – the level has been very high," he added. "There have been some exceptional and close-fought matches. We think the format has been a big success, both in the qualifying competition and the final round."
"We have observed that the matches have been more competitive than ever before," said UEFA competitions director Giorgio Marchetti. "We have had newcomers who brought the spice to this tournament. The performance of these teams shows that there is enough quality in Europe to sustain a 24-team tournament."