Football’s coming home. Well, maybe not home home, but to the home nations at least. Wales, to be precise; Cardiff, to be specific. The Millennium Stadium in the Welsh capital city is expected to be named as the venue for the 2017 Champions League Final.
As the worlds’ most famous – and most revered – club football competition, the Champion’s League Final would be the biggest event hosted at the stadium, in footballing terms. The stadium has played host to a number of other big footballing fixtures in its history, including six FA Cup finals, the League Cup final, and the Community Shield.
Alongside having hosted football matches, it’s no stranger to big European fixtures in the Rugby calendar, having hosted the Heineken Cup final on more than one occasion. With a capacity of nearly 75,000, the Millennium stadium is up there with the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, or the Olympiastadion in Berlin. The former hosted the 2009 CL final, which saw Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona dismantle Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United; the latter saw this year’s final between Barcelona and Juventus, where the Catalan outfit triumphed over the team from Turin.
If the Millennium Stadium is awarded the 2017 Final, it will do much to soften the disappointment of being passed over as a host country for the 2020 Euros. Being able to welcome some of European football’s finest talents – arguably the finest talent – also acts as recognition of Wales as a footballing nation. A tip-of-the-hat to the country who produced Ryan Giggs and the Galáctico Gareth Bale, who were both born and raised in the city of Cardiff.
What would it mean for Cardiff?
The final is prestigious, but it’s financially rewarding, too. One of the top-five most watched sporting events in the world (along with the World Cup final, the Superbowl and the Cricket World Cup final), the event is a cash-cow waiting to be milked. The 2011 Final, hosted at Wembley stadium, is thought to have been worth up to as much as €52million to London’s economy at the time. This provides a huge boost to the hospitality industry and to other local businesses, the importance of which can’t be understated.
The last European game held in Cardiff was the 2014 European Super Cup, contested between Real Madrid and Sevilla, and saw local lad Bale return to his home city in the famous jersey of Los Blancos, the most famous team in the history of European football. Who knows – the Champions League final might even see another homecoming for Bale as Real Madrid chase La Undécima, the 11th European Cup in their history.
Whatever happens on that glorious night in 2017, there’s no doubting that it marks a historic event in the history of Wales as a footballing nation.