For the first time, the final tournament of the UEFA European Under-17 Championship was staged in Azerbaijan. In the previous year, the event had reverted to a 16-team format for the first time since 2002 and this formula was repeated in Baku, where all 16 delegations and the organisational teams were accommodated in a single hotel.
For the tournament, four venues within the city limits of the Azeri capital were used, ranging in size from the 68,000-capacity Olympic Stadium to the Qarabağ Stadium, which accommodated 4,735 spectators. The Dalga Arena and the 8km Stadium have capacities of 6,700 and 10,500 respectively.
Azerbaijan’s opening match against Portugal, attended by the country’s president, Ilham Aliyev, was preceded by a colourful opening ceremony and attracted a competition-record attendance of 33,000 at the Olympic Stadium. However, the parameters of U17 football did not comfortably align with the extended use of such a spacious facility and, once the group stage had been concluded, it was agreed to switch the semi-finals and the final to venues of more modest capacity.
A crowd of 7,253 for the final brought the cumulative audience to 61,606 at an average of 1,987 per match. The 30 fixtures which led up to the final were played as double-headers at the four venues, with intervals between kick-off times ranging from three to five hours. Climatic conditions posed no problems, while pitches and training facilities were of a uniformly high standard.
Eight referees and 12 assistant referees from non-participating countries were selected to gain experience at the final tournament of a UEFA competition, along with a quartet of fourth officials, including two from the host association. As has become the custom in recent years, the tournament agenda featured educational briefings on doping controls and the dangers of match-fixing aimed at players who were, in the main, also enjoying their first taste of international competition.
UEFA’s technical team at the tournament in Azerbaijan was formed by Savvas Constantinou (Cyprus), John Peacock (England), Dany Ryser (Switzerland) and Ghenadie Scurtul (Moldova). They were joined for the final by UEFA’s chief technical officer, Ioan Lupescu (Romania). Their observations have been compiled into a technical report which, in addition to providing a permanent record of the event, aims to offer useful information to coaches working at the development levels of the game.