The 2015 UEFA European Under-21 Championship may be over, but the legacy of the tournament will live on in the Czech Republic.
This is the view of Petr Fousek, U21 EURO director, who described the event as "the biggest project that Czech football has organised in its history". He recognises the long-term gains from the staging of the competition, notably that "it has given us better infrastructure".
"We knew from the beginning this was the second most important UEFA national team competition so we set up a strong LOC and tried to fulfil all UEFA standards," he added. Perhaps the prime example is Olomouc's Ander Stadium, which staged three Group B matches and the semi-final between Portugal and Germany.
According to Adam Košař, stadium manager at the home of SK Sigma Olomouc, until 12 months ago the away dressing room had not seen a lick of paint since Real Madrid CF visited for a UEFA Cup quarter-final tie in 1992.
Today, the main stand has been completely renovated. "The main entrance was rebuilt so the look from outside is completely new," said Košař. "Inside there is a big reception area, which was the flash zone during the tournament. We reconstructed the dressing room and built a new anti-doping room as a UEFA requirement." There are also bigger club offices, a press conference room that can hold up to 70 people and new seating for media in the stand.
The Olomouc-based outfit achieved the impressive facelift thanks to funding worth €2.38m from the Czech ministry of education and sport, and from local government. With these funds the club also upgraded their Řepčín training ground – at which England trained during the tournament – with new changing rooms for their U19, U17 and U16 squads and a relaid pitch.
The facilities at the other venue in Moravia – City Stadium, home of 1. FC Slovácko in Uherske Hradiste – have also been significantly improved thanks to the U21 EURO. A new pitch was laid after a 12-year wait, while there were new turnstiles constructed at the stadium entrance, a big screen installed and new press and hospitality areas built inside.
A similar facelift took place at AC Sparta Praha's Letná Stadium. Ondřej Kasík, the club's director of communications, explained: "We reconstructed some internal premises, including the referee and delegate's rooms and the away dressing room. In the main stand a new hospitality area with executive boxes was opened. For the club it is a great investment for the future."
Looking at the overall success of the event, tournament director Fousek added: "We had about 15-20 aims when applying for this tournament, including sporting success – we hoped the Czech team would qualify for the semi-finals, which unfortunately didn't happen, although the performance was good and the players played well.
"We've had a positive response – the media, the public, UEFA, the teams and the referees have all expressed their satisfaction. It has given us better infrastructure, there was a good economical balance, significant attendances and of course the boost to youth football in inspiring a young generation. In my eyes, and those of LOC members, the tournament fulfilled most of those aims."