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UEFA is looking for a host country to organise the UEFA Futsal European Championship final tournament which will be held between January-February in 2026. In addition to Finland, Latvia, France, Lithuania, and Belgium have bid to be chosen as the host of the competition. The UEFA board will make a decision on the host country of the tournament in December 2023.
(Main picture source: Finnish FA)
16 nations will participate in the final tournament, which is broken into four groups of four teams. After the group stage, the quarterfinals, semifinals, bronze medal match, and final are played.
UEFA requires the host country to have two halls, one with a spectator capacity of at least 7,500 and the other with at least 4,500.
Finland’s proposed venues are Espoo’s Metro Areena and Tampere’s Hakametsä ice rink. Futsal is very popular in Finland a recent example is the men’s national team’s last home match in the FIFA Futsal World Cup qualifiers, where Finland hosted Denmark in Vantaa, on the 5 March, it was sold out. You can go back as far as 2020 to see TV statistics as well via Finnpanel .fi which shows that their match against Serbia reached 377,000 people that evening and was watched by an average audience of 119,000. Be it at the stadium or on TV, the Finnish national team games, should they host the competition would attract a large audience.
“Futsal in Finland is constantly growing and interest in our national teams is high. The men’s national futsal team has already shown that they belong among the top teams in Europe. The conditions in Finland enable a successful tournament to be organized both from a sporting point of view as well as from the audience’s point of view, and we would be able to offer the European futsal community wonderful competitions”, says the Finnish FA futsal development manager Kirsi Nummela
The European Futsal Championship was last played in the Netherlands in January-February 2022. At that time, Finland was participating in the European Championship final tournament for the first time and sensationally made it all the way to the quarterfinals, where it narrowly lost to Portugal, who eventually won the tournament.
In the qualifiers for the 2024 World Cup final tournament, Finland has progressed to the Elite Round stage, which will be played in the fall.
Finland’s under-19 boys’ national futsal team will also be able to make their prestigious competition debut when the team takes part in the UEFA U19 European Futsal final tournament in Croatia in September. Finland won its qualifying group in Latvia in March and will face Ukraine, Slovenia, and Italy in the eight-nation final tournament in Group B of the European Championship.
“We have world-class event expertise and Finland was a quarter-final team in the previous men’s European futsal championships, which gives strong support to our competition application. We want to strengthen the growth of futsal both in Finland and in Europe and to be a close part of the international futsal community, so it was a clear decision for us to participate in applying for the European Championships in Finland. We were very close to getting the 2025 Women’s European Championship in the Nordic countries, and the process gave us valuable information about our strengths. We have the know-how, passion, and good conditions to organize the all-time futsal men’s European Championships in Finland, says Ari Lahti, chairman of the Finnish Football Association.
On December 7, 2022, the Latvian Football Federation (LFF) submitted a Declaration of Interest for hosting the 2026 UEFA European Futsal Championship (UEFA Futsal Euro 2026) in Latvia, which they announced on the federation’s website.
LFF President Vadims Lashenko: “We have expressed a clear interest, desire, and readiness to organize the European final tournament in Latvia. We have already accumulated a lot of experience in organizing such events, so we want to take the next step, after the final tournament of the UEFA European U-19 Futsal Championship and The UEFA Futsal Champions League Finals, with the participation of four of the continent’s strongest clubs and many futsal stars, we have proven that our staff, the city, and the infrastructure are capable and ready to organize events of this level at the highest level. The feedback from UEFA after the international tournaments organized by the LFF in the past has been positive, so we have decided to apply for the hosting of this final tournament. In the European Championship, the 16 best teams from the entire continent would come to Latvia, and it would be the highest-level indoor football tournament organized in Latvia so far.”
LFF has started negotiations with “Arena Rīga” and “Rimi Olympic Center”, and the possibility of organizing such a tournament is also being considered in the planned project “Establishment of a team sports hall at Krišjāņa Barona Street 99C”, in Riga.
In February of this year, Portugal defended the title of European champion in the Netherlands, beating Russia 4:2 in the final match in Amsterdam. This was the first European Championship in which the number of participants was expanded to 16 teams. The Latvian futsal team has not yet played in the big final tournaments, but in the selection of the European Championship, they fought until the last match to get into the playoffs.
Latvia also missed out on a place in the elite round qualifiers of the 2024 FIFA Futsal World Cup qualifiers, the team finished bottom of group 12 which also included Slovakia who won the group, and Germany. After defeating Germany at home in the opening fixture, 5-1, they lost to Slovakia away, then to Germany away, 3-1 (in front of a record attendance for German futsal at 2,704), and at home to Slovakia, 1-4.
In December last year, the Lithuanian FA also confirmed their intentions to host the event.
“In recent years, Lithuania has proven that futsal is becoming an important part of the development of our football – the selection stages of the men’s and women’s championships were held in our country more than once, not to mention the 2021 FIFA Futsal World Cup. During it, we gained great experience and we believe that it will help to properly organize the European Futsal Championship. It is true that we still have a lot of work to do before we succeed,” said LFF General Secretary Edgaras Stankevičius.
Belgium and France
UEFA has confirmed both France and Belgium among the 5 applicants for the competition, however, we could not find a statement by the French Football Federation or the Royal Belgian Football Association concerning their intentions to host the competition. Despite this, Belgium has hosted the finals of the competition before in 2014, and recently Royal Sporting Anderlecht Futsal reached the Finals of the UEFA Futsal Champions League, the first time for a Belgian club. The Belgian futsal community will be hoping the Association is awarded the competition, as many Belgian futsal fans over the years have told us how disappointed they were after the competition, feeling the association didn’t take full advantage of the opportunity to develop futsal further.
In France, the sport’s popularity has exploded in the past 10 years, the national futsal team has continued to grow and succeed, and they qualified for their first international futsal competition in 2018, reaching the UEFA Futsal EURO Final Tournament in Slovenia, though they didn’t qualify from their group. In 2022, the U19s qualified for their first UEFA U19 Futsal EURO finals tournament but failed to progress from the group stage. However, they will return to the finals again this year, the team was drawn into Group A with Croatia, Portugal, and Spain. The elite players have also been getting development assistance from the France Futsal Hope Center in Lyon since it was established in September 2018. Domestically, France has the infrastructure in place and the experience to host this international competition. In relation to the sport’s development, clubs, and participation, the FFF announced in 2022, that they have over 30,000 registered players across the country and the sport has become one of the most popular disciplines for students, taking part in the competitions of the National Union of School Sport (UNSS). These promising findings confirm their desire to accelerate the development of Futsal throughout the country and to meet the challenges posed by its structuring. For these reasons, the FFF has been working on the sustainability and promotion of the national, regional, and departmental championships. A fundamental challenge also concerns the increase in infrastructure dedicated to this practice, in order to relieve congestion in gymnasiums. As such, the FFF financially supports the construction of outdoor Futsal pitches which can allow clubs to engage in departmental-level competitions. Thus, Futsal continues its structuring and the Association created a guide intended to provide the necessary aspects/ stages for the development of Futsal clubs.
The Premier Division of French Futsal is called the D1, it brings together 18 clubs, in 2013 a second national division was created, the D2. The top divisions are connected to 6 regional leagues which are supported by city leagues. The National Futsal Cup has been organised since 1994, and it was renamed in 2021 as the National Futsal Cup Michel Muffat-Joly. In the first edition, 25 clubs took part, but the latest figures we can see are from 2019-20 and 607 clubs took part in the competition at that time. During the 2019-2020 season, 13 metropolitan leagues had at least one championship regional senior men’s futsal; 5 leagues had a single regional level, 7 leagues had 2 regional levels, and a league with 3 regional levels; this represents approximately 350 teams. During the 2019-2020 season, 11 out of 12 leagues (excluding Corsica) have departmental championships. About 60 districts out of 90 have a departmental senior men’s futsal championship; this represents approximately 850 teams.
An example of club development is Olympique Lyonnais Futsal, a branch of the professional football club, which is making its way through the league pathway. The Group that owns the club has invested in a 16,000 indoor seater stadium, you can read more about this development in the related article link. The futsal division/ team project started in the 2019-20 season, in the District of Rhône, a hotbed for futsal, and according to madeinfutsal.com Rhône has nearly 4 District divisions, but an exception was made for Olympique Lyonnais futsal’s senior team to avoid three of these divisions, allowing the club to enter the D1 of the district division, the divisions of the district go from D4 to D1. Though the French futsal community acknowledges the impact a club like Olympique Lyonnais can have on French futsal, questions rose in relation to fairness, and whether the club should have started on the district divisional ladder like any other team in D4. Questions were also asked about the speed at which FFF wants futsal to develop if more professional football clubs enter the sport with large budgets, and what this would mean for traditional futsal clubs who don’t have the means to compete with their finances. In their first season, the club won District D1 and qualified for the Regional 2 division, a division they had initially been trying to get access to but were told to start in District D1. The club’s winning performances continued into the 2020-21 season as they won the Regional 2 league, and they are now competing in the 2022-23 Regional 1 season. The club was challenging all season but ALF Futsal was too strong for them. ALF Futsal won the league and a place in the regional playoffs for the D2 division.
Considering the future needs of futsal from a business perspective we ponder the question in relation to which of these nations could have the developmental impact that can benefit the commercial development needs of futsal, and in our opinion, that nation is France. France as a footballing nation currently sits second in the world FIFA rankings, then considering the power and influence of their Football Association on other associations, particularly in Africa. Take into account the commercial influence futsal popularity in France could have on its neighbours yet to invest or advance their development plans for futsal. Then association rivalries, the FFF’s success in Futsal could influence another market that Futsal needs to penetrate further than it has and that country is Germany. Domestically, should France deliver a successful competition, and should they perform well, it could increase the general population’s interest in the sport along with the French business sector’s interest in futsal, the growth of the French National League, and the future challenge of French clubs on the European stage would help to encourage other nations to take more interest in futsal as well. The Final Four of the UEFA Futsal Champions League has been primarily dominated by Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, and Kazakhstani clubs, it would be interesting to see how futsal’s popularity in France would increase if their clubs were successfully challenging the traditional dominant countries. We have already seen Belgium break into the Final Four at FC Barcelona’s expense, a French club emerging may not be so far away. An increase in Futsal popularity in France could also help to impact the street footballing culture there, which would be a significant swing in futsal’s development and popularity if the street football culture in France started to adopt futsal, as the streets are a huge part of French football’s popular culture.
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