Climate Change is Heating Up European Soccer

A look at how climate change will impact European soccer finals

The 2022 Champions League and the Europa League finals’ host stadiums, Paris’s Stade de France and Seville’s Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium, like many other possible finals venues, will face a climate future with more days at or above 35°C (95°F) during finals season, and leagues and tournament organizers will want to take note.  

Today, during the May 15 to June 7 period when European competition finals are often held, a day 35°C or higher is not typical at either finals venue. But, by the end of the century, patterns dramatically diverge, increasing the likelihood of heat-driven health issues for athletes and fans. 

At Spain’s Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium in Seville, where Glasgow Rangers will face off against Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League final on May 18, maximum daily temperatures of at least 35°C are projected to occur between 2 to 3 times a year for much of the 2070s through 2100, according to Gro Climate Ensemble model projections based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) “middle of the road” warming scenario (SSP2-4.5). But, this frequency jumps to about 25% of the days in the 24-day finals window during the 2070s and to close to half of days above 35°C for many of the years between the late 2080s and 2100, under our Ensemble model’s projection based on the IPCC’s “highest emissions” pathway (SSP5-8.5). 

CAPTION: Number of days in Seville, Spain, when temperatures will be above 35°C during soccer competitions, under IPCC climate scenarios. The IPCC's trajectory estimate for global warming falls between SSP 2-4.5 and SSP 3-70. The purple line, SSP 5-8.5, is the IPCC's highest emissions scenario. 


By comparison, Stade de France, host of the Champions League final between Liverpool FC and Real Madrid on May 28, is projected to have less than 1 day, on average, above 35°C this century under all scenarios. 

These temperature peaks are a noteworthy jump, particularly for southern Europe. From a health perspective, high heat increases the risk of heat stroke, heat cramps, and heat exhaustion. For some venues, projected temperature increases could also necessitate cooling system modifications during infrastructure updates. 

According to the IPCC’s latest working group report, released last month, the world is on track for 3.2°C of warming this century, putting the current IPCC trajectory estimate between SSP2-4.5 and SSP3-7.0.

As the century progresses, moving the European soccer finals north will reduce the likelihood of a 35°C finals game day. By mid-May to early June in most of the 2090s, Champions League finalist Real Madrid, which now experiences the occasional day above 35°C, is projected to see about 4 to 5 days above 35°C during the finals window, under SSP3-7.0, the emissions track between the IPCC’s middle of the road and its high emissions pathways. Using SSP5-8.5, the district where Real Madrid plays is expected to see around 4 to 6 days above 35°C for much of the 2080s. The heat cranks up even more in the 2090s, with 35°C frequencies commonly occurring close to one-third of the days between May 15 and June 7, under SSP5-8.5. 

Currently, Champions League finalist, Liverpool FC, and Europa League finalists, Glasgow Rangers and Eintracht Frankfurt, usually see no days above 35°C during the European finals period. And even under the IPCC’s highest emissions scenario, the number of days that Liverpool and Glasgow are projected to see about 35°C never goes above zero. Throughout this century, the number of days that Frankfurt is projected to see above 35°C between May 15 and June 7 is less than 1, under SSP2-4.5. Using SSP5-8.5, Frankfurt hits a frequency of over 1 day above 35°C in the late 2090s, but it generally stays below 1 day for most of the century. 

In January, the Union of European Football Associations, which represents the national football associations of Europe and runs both competitions, joined the UN Race to Zero campaign, committing to a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions across its events by 2030. Champions League finalist Liverpool FC are also signatories to the framework.