It’s finally here. France will stage 51 international football matches at 10 of its greatest stadiums over the next month, but while 24 nations are taking part, only one can be declared champions of Europe on 10 July.
There’s plenty of home interest this time, with England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland all qualifying for the newly expanded tournament, and five countries are set to make their finals debut. With traditional heavyweights like Germany, Spain, Italy and hosts France participating too, it’s a chance for some of the best players in the world to prove themselves on the biggest stage. It all means that the 2016 edition could well be the most exciting yet, so if you’re one of the lucky few who get to experience all the excitement first-hand, here are a few essentials you may need to know before embarking on the trip of a lifetime.
Hitting the French Highway
Whilst getting to grips with driving on the right hand side of the road, there a few more things to bear in mind when taking to the roads in France. Firstly, make sure you’re carrying your UK driving license and evidence of insurance if it’s your own vehicle. Secondly, French law requires you to carry reflective/hi-vis jackets in the car should you break down, as well as a red warning triangle and beam deflectors. It’s also worth noting that a large majority of Autoroutes are toll roads, so keep that change handy if you are travelling for longer.
Better to be safe than sorry when it comes to travelling in France this summer. Make sure you have a valid and in-date European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) – this gives you access to state-provided healthcare and any treatment deemed medically necessary during your trip. Along with protecting your health, it is also important to take out travel insurance just in case any of your possessions go missing in the time you’re away.
In light of recent events, it’s understandable that the French authorities are taking security and fan safety very seriously. There will be stringent bag and person checks in place outside stadiums and fan zones, so we’d recommend timing your arrival well in advance of kickoff in case of queues. France’s government also recommend that fans download the SAIP mobile app, which will send a notification to geo-located users in the unlikely event of any emergency.
Not only is vital to carry an EHIC for the duration of your trip to France, but every football fan hoping to follow the Three Lions this summer will need to bring their England Supporters Club membership card. Both it and your passport may be checked against any tickets purchased for the games to guarantee entry. It is also important to note that no alcohol is permitted inside the stadium, but there will be refreshment stalls selling soft drinks to quench your thirst in the French sunshine. The weather looks good for the opening games so if you’re attending one of the daytime matches, don’t forget to apply the sun cream!
UEFA have initiatives in place to ensure hassle-free entry at all host city stadiums for fans with disabilities. Working with the Centre for Access to Football in Europe, their ‘Access for All’ programme aims to offer easy-access seats, facilities for those who are deaf, hard of hearing, partially sighted or blind and viewing areas for wheelchair users. They also recommend getting in touch with the venue prior to the match to discuss accessibility options, and planning your journey well in advance to avoid any problems on the day.
As the tournament’s musical ambassador, French DJ David Guetta will perform two unforgettable sets to kick off the football in style this weekend. Thursday 9 June will see the French DJ take to the stage for a pre-tournament concert for 80,000 fans at the foot of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and the following evening he’ll perform his official song for the tournament at the opening ceremony. Incredibly, over 150 million supporters will tune in to watch Guetta play ‘This One’s For You’ to a rapturous Stade de France. Whether you’re in the stands or watching from one of the dedicated fan zones across the country, the ceremony promises a spectacle of colour, passion and artistry in celebration of France’s history.
With smaller concerts staged throughout dedicated areas to ensure a party atmosphere, check out our fan zones guide for the full location details.