Plan To Succeed

Euro 2016 kicks off in France tomorrow (Friday June 10), and despite a warning against travel from the UK Foreign Office, I’ll be on plane to Marseilles at the same time France take on Romania in the opening game – how rufty-tufty, devil-may-care is that of me and my mates?  OK not very, Marseilles is hardly Aleppo but I haven’t been anywhere truly exciting for a while so I’ll go along with the risk assessment of this trip to try to stimulate some adrenaline.

In reality, I’m sure it will all go off along the same lines as when a similar group travelled to Germany for the World Cup, or to Majorca to watch the South Africa World Cup in the sun, or when I travelled alone to the Brazil World Cup.

In essence, a bit of watching football in stadia, a lot of watching football on TV in bars, and some soaking up the atmosphere of one of the world’s greatest sporting events.  Oh and sightseeing of museums and stuff.  Did I mention that?  No?  That’s because I won’t be doing it.  I’ll happily take in the sights of Marseilles if I happen to pass them as we wend our way around the city, but I won’t be looking at old pots and paintings.  I’d rather see life in Marseilles as it is now – living history in the open, not behind glass.

I also intend to spend the trip doing some filming – mobile journalism as it’s now called.  A strange name implying the journalism we used to do was static.  I can assure you it wasn’t.  Anyway I’ll be filming bits and pieces, talking to people, posting some video to YouTube and possibly some live broadcasts on Periscope or Facebook Live.  Get me, aren’t I the hip virtual  pensioner!  If you’re interested in following our trip on video the Barefoot Bohemian YouTube channel can be found here – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFswARTZPfWqJZ8-uQQ0JHw

It would be great if you subscribed but I suppose that depends on whether you like what you see and want to see any more.

But for now, I thought I should drag this blog, kicking and screaming, back from the assorted ramblings I’ve ended up posting to a post more in line with the intended theme of the blog.  In truth, I probably need to do this if I’m ever going to encourage more than a small group of followers to sign up for email notifications and to read the blog regularly.  (If you know anyone who might appreciate either my earlier ramblings or the more considered location-neutral lifestyle scribblings then please pass this on and encourage them to sign up for the email alerts so they don’t miss a post. Please promote this all you can.  Thanks).

I am going to share with you the system we have used to travel to the World Cup in Germany in 2006 and to the Euros this year.  It’s tried and tested, works well, is relatively inexpensive and, while requiring a little luck, it does provide some flexibility if your luck does not hold.  So far, our’s has held pretty well.

So having decided you would like to attend an event like the World Cup or the Euros, then the first piece of advice is to decide that a couple of years before the event. Tickets go on sale 12-18 months before, and while there are ticket deals right up to the start of the tournament, in reality, these are very limited, either for games nobody wants to see; in remote stadia; for seats which might as well be facing away from the pitch; or for corporate deals which will bleed you dry.

Next, try to gather together a small group – a maximum of about six otherwise getting tables in restaurants without reserving becomes a pain.  This also increases the enjoyment, provides constant companionship, on-hand punditry, and greatly increases the chances of getting tickets.

Then decide how long you want to spend there and at what stage of the competition.  This affects your choice of venues, the number of available games, the cost of tickets – and possibly the chances of seeing England!  I would recommend going for about a week during the group stages because the games are cheaper, there are more of them – three a day, every day – and there are more venues to chose from.

Then take a look at where the games are being held and match them against airports used by the budget airlines.  So for Euro 2016 we considered the sunnier locations of Nice and Marseilles, eventually opting for Marseilles because the accommodation was likely to be cheaper – although Nice is a relatively short train journey away if necessary (this relates to my earlier comment about luck – of which more later). Also, select a place which will have plenty of bars with TVs showing the games, good restaurants and some things to do when there’s no football.  In France, this means in the mornings because the games are at 1500, 1800 and 2100 during the group stages.

I should add that for the Germany World Cup we drove and selected three venues, moving between them as the week progressed.  This meant we saw more places but less football due to the travelling.  Your choice.

Then select your travel dates to maximise the number of available games at your chosen stadium and get your flights booked before any tickets are made available – and this will also mean, before your chosen team has even qualified.  This keeps down the cost because most people will be waiting to see where their team is playing.  Our flights were about £150 return.

Next, book some accommodation of your choice – we have two apartments in Marseilles for five people, although they sleep 8, at a cost of £30 a night each. Booking early should mean you have a decent selection and range of places to stay.

Then when the tickets are made available everyone applies for multiple tickets for the games at your chosen venue at the time you will be there.

At the Germany World Cup the organisers insisted on passport numbers for each ticket application which meant you could only apply for one ticket per person per game as the tickets were issued with your name and passport number.  This is a pain but does not stop ticket touts and it’s relatively easy to pick up tickets for most games – although high-profile teams mean higher prices.  Nobody ever checks the passport against the ticket.  Can you imagine the delays at the turnstiles?  I imagine it would only become relevant if two people were claiming the same seat because someone had a fake ticket.  At the Euros we could apply for four tickets per game, so we did.

At this stage, you are entering a ballot for tickets for games that are still only identified as A2 v A4, or G1 v G3 because not all the teams have qualified and the draw has therefore not yet taken place.  This is where luck plays a part because it’s a ballot and so there is no guarantee of success but with five or six people each applying for four tickets for two or three games, the chances of getting some tickets are increased.  There is usually a later release after the draw if you don’t get any first time round.   We all applied for two games and ended up with 10 tickets for one game and four for the other.  Therefore, we had 5 spare tickets for one game and were a ticket short for the other.

The next event is you will know who has qualified and the draw will take place.  At this stage A2 v A4 becomes France v Albania, or whatever.  This is the next element of luck.  It turns out our two games in Marseilles are England v Russia on Saturday (June 11) and France v Albania on Wednesday (June 15).  Stroke of luck eh?  Better still, the game for which we have five spare tickets …. is the England game!  How hard will it be to sell those? In fact, we have already swapped one for our ‘missing’ France v Albania ticket so all five of us will see both games.

If there were better games in nearby Nice we could easily have applied for those in the second ballot, or used our Marseilles tickets to swap. That’s why the choice of venue matters.

So what if you don’t get a ticket, in either ballot or from someone selling off surplus tickets,  I hear you ask, and should you travel without a ticket?  Well there is always the chance of getting a ticket from someone on the day but you will probably pay more than face value, risk buying a fake ticket and may fall foul of the law – but it’s undeniably possible and relatively easy.  I’d also make a distinction between travelling for a one-off match or travelling for a tournament. I would probably not travel without a ticket just for a single game but this post is about travelling to a tournament. The chances of getting tickets are higher, there are more games to choose from, there are more games to watch on TV and you still get to experience the atmosphere with other football fans.

But this whole approach is predicated on how much you enjoy watching the particular sport involved. I have previously travelled to Majorca to watch the World Cup in South Africa, clearly with no chance of getting a ticket. Why?  Because I had a week with nothing else to do but watch three games of football a day, without work or anything else getting in the way. And I did it with friends, in the sunshine,  in a location with plenty of restaurants and bars which would definitely be showing the games given the Spanish love of football. So if you have that mindset the worst case scenario becomes a week away in the sun, with your friends, watching football, and enjoying the fan zones and general atmosphere of a city hosting a major sporting event, which believe me, beats the hell out of watching the games at home.  How bad can that be?

Good Luck
The Barefoot Bohemian

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