The European soccer season is about to get underway, and for all that may conjure images of winter nights and woolly scarves, the season extends across nine months of the year and - what is more - it is always a spur to the travel trade. The ever-growing popularity of European leagues and cups sees corresponding hikes in the number of inter-city travellers throughout the season as hordes of fans make their way around the continent in support of their favourite teams. It has been calculated that the Champions League alone is worth as much as £170 million in terms of flights and hotel bookings alone.
If you’re planning a European stay over the months ahead it’s always worth checking the itinerary of the clubs in cities such as Madrid, Barcelona, London, Berlin and Paris - all of which are home to teams likely to feature prominently in this season’s football betting. Those cities undoubtedly have more than enough accommodation and transport tickets to go round, but it is always worth asking yourself whether or not a set of fanatical football fans is something you want to build into your own stop over.
If it is then you can carry on regardless. In fact, you might even go out of your way to make it happen. But if ball games, beer and boisterous fan-dom are not your thing then it can pay to be aware that Florence and Rome, to pick two Italian examples at random, are very different places when there is a big game in town.
Anyone considering the rugby world cup - likewise - might want to be aware of the fact that whilst rugby is number one in New Zealand it is still something of a minority sport in the UK. The English may have invented the fifteen man game but it still plays second fiddle to soccer. If you find yourself in Twickenham at the same time as Chelsea have a game on, you will be set for a weird mix of sporting cultures.
On the positive side, anyone who loves football will be delighted at the imminent start of the new season. Many travellers theme their European adventures to purposefully coincide with games as a way to give a sporting focus to their trips. When it goes well it is a great way to see a city in party mode. And the spectacular occasions that Champions League games have become are undeniably awe-inspiring. Anyone who has ever seen a game at one of Europe’s great venues will tell you that it is an unforgettable experience, irrespective of whether you are a fan of one of the teams involved. The energy, the majesty and the intensity of the atmosphere are simply on a scale that will make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.
Of course, if you are after something a little more laid back, a little quieter and maybe even a little less sporty, it is always worth checking the football fixture list. A big game can make a very noisy difference to a European adventure.
Photo Credit: Wei Chen