Lifestyle & Culture

New for 2018: Dispatches’ list of Europe’s best sporting events

If you’re an expat who needs some thrills, spills and competition in your life, then Dispatches new list of Europe’s best sporting events is for you.

But if you’re coming from the United States, you’re in for some new experiences.

In the U.S., the top draws are MLB (baseball), NFL (American football), NBA (basketball), NHL (hockey), and NASCAR (motorsport).

Other sports exist, but are nowhere near the hearts and minds of the most casual of fans.

In Europe, it’s a completely different story.

Association football (soccer for short) is the No. 1 sport across the continent; American football is more of a curiosity than anything else. Basketball is fairly popular, but nothing like Formula One, which may as well be tied with association football as far as popularity is concerned.

Tennis and golf are big deals, along with cycling, rallying, horse racing and endurance racing, both cars and motorcycles.

All of the biggest events to take place in 2018, plus a few ideas for consideration. And of course, if there’s something which should go here, please let Terry (terry@dispatcheseurope.com) or me (cameron@dispatcheseurope.com) know; you can ping our Facebook page, too.

• AMERICAN FOOTBALL


London – NFL London Games: More than a decade ago, the NFL decided to bring back American football to Europe (London, to be exact) with the NFL London Games, following the dissolution of NFL Europe.

The London Games (part of the NFL International Series, which also hosts a game in Mexico City), brings NFL regular season games to London every year, having expanded from one game at Wembley Stadium per year between 2007 and 2011, to three games split between Wembley and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium this year.

The 2018 season will kick-off with the Seattle Seahawks facing the Oakland Raiders at Tottenham 14 October, followed by the reigning Super Bowl champs the Philadelphia Eagles going head-to-head against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Tennesee Titans bringing the pain against the Los Angeles Chargers at Wembley. The Wembley games will be held 21 and 28 October, though the dates for each have yet to be determined as of this writing.

If you’re ready for some football, tickets will go on sale soon; you can register via Ticketmaster to know when sales begin.

• ASSOCIATION FOOTBALL (SOCCER)

Europe – UEFA Nations League: Coming to the continent in September is the first-ever UEFA Nations League. Fifty-five national teams split into four groups will compete to not only be the first to raise the Nations League trophy in June 2019, but also to gain entry into the 60th anniversary of the UEFA European Championship, held 12 June through 12 July 2020 in 12 cities across Europe.

Tickets will go on sale in the months to come.

Russia – 2018 FIFA World Cup: Assuming Trump doesn’t start WWIII, soccer fans will gather en masse between 14 June and 15 July to 11 cities within European Russia for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

This festival of football returns to Europe for the first time since 2006 and is the first time ever the World Cup has made an appearance in Eastern Europe. Thirty-two teams from around the world will compete to hoist the FIFA World Cup Trophy among the 81,000 fans in attendance at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium at the end of the month-long show, as well as a chance to compete in the 2021 FIFA Confederations Cup.

If you were hoping to wave the stars-and-stripes, however, you’re going to have to wait until 2022 at the earliest (or 2019 for the Women’s World Cup in France, should the defending champions make it back).

Remaining tickets from the second phase of ticket sales—which ended 31 January—will go on sale on a first-come, first-served basis 13 March through 3 April. The third and final phase of sales runs from 18 April to the final match on 15 July. Check here for full ticket purchasing information.

Tallinn – UEFA Super Cup: In 1972, at the height of Dutch total football, De Telegraaf writer and sports editor Anton Witkamp wanted a way to prove whose team was the best team of all of Europe. Thus, he pulled AFC Ajax into a two-leg series against the Rangers F.C. of Scotland for the first-ever European Super Cup; the cup wouldn’t be official until Ajax faced A.C. Milan for it in 1973.

Today, the annual UEFA Super Cup is held as a single match on neutral territory between the Champions League and Europa League winners. Once the dust settles in Kiev, Ukraine (Champions League) and Décines-Charpieu, France (Europa League) in late May, the two winning teams will gather in Tallinn, Estonia’s A. Le Coq Arena 15 August to prove they’re the best of the best in Europe.

Ticket pools are split 60/40, the greater piece distributed to the fans of the two teams, while a lottery is held for the remaining piece. Applications for the right to buy tickets will start in June.

• BASKETBALL

Belgrade – 2018 EuroLeague Final Four: Ever wonder where the NBA finds European stars like Evan Fournier, Nikola Jokić and Goran Dragić? Why not see for yourself in Belgrade, Serbia 18 and 20 May at the 2018 EuroLeague Final Four.

The EuroLeague is Europe’s version of the NBA, though half the size of the latter with 16 teams covering basketball hot spots in Spain, Italy, Eastern and Central Europe, and Israel. Of the 16, only four will go on to face each other for the EuroLeague trophy at the end of the 2017-18 season.

Though tickets are already sold-out, viagogo might have what you need to see European professional basketball at its best… and maybe the next stars to hop over the Atlantic.

• CYCLING

France – Le Tour de France: Only the most famous multi-stage bicycle race in the world, the month-long Le Tour de France is three weeks of pain, endurance, and victory over 21 stages and 3,500 kilometres every July.

Born from a fight in 1903 between two French newspapers over the Dreyfus Affair, Le Tour has seen its share of conflict and scandal in the 115 years since then, including anything and everything related to disgraced ex-champion Lance Armstrong.

If you’re wondering how to watch any of the stages in 2018, this route map should help. From there, rally spectating rules (mostly) apply, as the 22 teams and 198 riders are followed by motorized support crews and police. We say mostly because some “fans” just want to watch the world burn, interfering with the competition however they can.

The 2018 Tour kicks off 7 July with the Grand Départ from Noirmoutier-en-l’Île to Fontenay-le-Comte, located in the Pays-de-la-Loire region in west-central France. Twenty-one stages later, the riders will roll through the Champs-Élysées in Paris to finish Le Tour 29 July.

• EQUESTRIAN

Ascot – Royal Ascot: Miss the drama of the Triple Crown of Horse Racing? Need an excuse to dress to the nines and mingle with the rich and famous? Then you need to visit the Ascot Racecourse in Ascot, England when the thunder of hooves and throngs of fancy-dressed party people gather ’round for the centuries-old Royal Ascot, welcoming the British summer 19 through 23 June.

The horse racing extravaganza is known more for the thousands in attendance than the horses who compete for a share of nearly £7 million (€7.6 million) in total prize money over the course of the competition. In fact, the Royal Ascot is considered a major event in the British social calendar; thus, expect to see lots of wealthy, well-mannered, very important people in their finest there (aside from the Queen and her growing family, of course).

Tickets to the 2018 Royal Ascot are on sale now, ranging from £32 (€36) for a seat in the Windsor Enclosure on Tuesday and Wednesday, to £84 (€95) for a place among the royals in the Queen Anne Enclosure on the final day of competition Saturday. These prices are good until 27 March, so don’t wait.

The World – Longines Global Champions Tour: This upper-crust, must-see tour is headquartered in Valkenswaard, Netherlands, just about 5 miles from Dispatches Media’s global headquarters. Jan Tops is the mastermind behind Longines Global Champions Tour, which brings the world’s greatest equestrians to world’s most glamorous cities including Paris, London, Rome, Shanghai, Miami and, yes, little Valkenswaard.

The 2018 tour starts in Mexico City next month, but returns to Europe for the Madrid event 4 through 6 May. Other stops in Europe include St. Tropez, Cannes and, well, every glittery watering hole across the continent.

The tour brings together the top show jumpers in the world to compete for silly money. Yet, it’s affordable to attend. Right now, tickets were only available for Mexico. And they sold out.

So, monitor LGCT website to see what’s available.

• GOLF

Paris – 2018 Ryder Cup: Since 1927—with a brief hiatus due to World War II, another following 9/11—the best in men’s golf from the United States and Europe have faced each other every two years to determine whose side had the best golfers around, and who would go home with the Ryder Cup.

This year, the battle for the Cup will be held on the greens of Le Golf National in the nearby Paris suburb of Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines 25 through 30 September. This marks the second time the competition has been held in Continental Europe, the first in Sotogrande, Spain in 1997. Thomas Bjørn of Denmark will head his team of 12 of Europe’s best, while Jim Furyk of Florida will hold the Stars and Stripes above his dozen men.

Alas, you’ll have to hope some tickets will become available, as the biennial battle is sold-out.

• MOTORSPORT

Isle of Man – Isle of Man TT: The Isle of Man TT is no ordinary motorcycle competition. The two-week-long festival of speed at Snaefell Mountain Course on the Isle of Man between Great Britain and Ireland pushes man and machine to their limit and beyond, sometimes with fatal results; a total of 255 riders have lost their lives on the 37-mile circuit since the first Isle of Man TT in 1911, three more leaving this mortal coil in 2017.

Tickets to the 2018 Isle of Man TT—set for 26 May through 8 June—are on sale now, ranging from £5 to £65 (€6 – €74).

Le Mans – 24 Hours of Le Mans: The 24 Hours of Le Mans in Le Mans, France is one of the jewels of the Triple Crown of Motorsport—the other two being the Grand Prix of Monaco and the Indianapolis 500—and every year, the headliner of the European summer endurance season proves why it has earned its place on the crown.

Since 1923, the oldest endurance race has tested many a driver, team, and car upon the Circuit de la Sarthe, as well as inspired many others to join the festival of speed, such as Daytona, Spa, and Bathurst.

There are many changes coming in 2018, such as BMW bringing their second-gen 8 Series to the big dance in the form of the M8 GTE; Porsche leaving the LMP1 class for Formula E—which means Toyota will finally win the class as it’s the only manufacturer left to run it; and the Le Mans 24 itself serving as the start-finish line for the 2018-19 World Endurance Championship Super Season.

Tickets for the 86th running of the Le Mans 24—set for 16 through 17 June—are on sale now for €32 – €82, depending on how much you want out of the experience.


Monaco – Grand Prix of Monaco: As mentioned above, the Grand Prix of Monaco is one of three jewels of the Triple Crown of Motorsport. Only one driver has ever accomplished the feat of driving in all three competitions: British racing legend Graham Hill. Hill won all three races back-to-back in 1962 and 1968, and won each one on separate occasions over his storied career.

While your friends get ready to celebrate the start of summer with the Memorial Day 1100 (the aforementioned Indy 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600), you can book your ticket to one of the most historic venues in all of motorsport when the Formula One circus comes to Monaco 24 through 27 May.

Tickets to this crown jewel of racing are available now, ranging from free for little ones hanging out in Grandstand L, to €3335 for a VIP experience in the Elite Terrace Saturday and Sunday. And of course, if you’ve got the euros, why not drop €5105.82 for a two-day guest pass into the all-new Formula One Paddock Club, which also nets you a reserved grandstand seat.

Nürburg – ADAC Zurich 24h-Rennen: Otherwise known as the 24 Hours of Nürburgring, the ADAC Zurich 24h-Rennen in Nürburg, Germany is unlike any other endurance competition around.

For starters, the N24 is open only to touring and grand touring cars; no prototypes here. More than 200 cars and over 700 drivers will tackle the Nürburgring’s Nordschleife (something our own Terry Boyd has done before) and Grand-Prix-Strecke, ranging from the monsters of the FIA GT3 class, to the slower classes featuring the likes of Toyota CH-Rs, Hyundai i30s, and an occasional Opel Manta from the early 1980s.

If 24 Hours of Le Mans has a refined air about itself, the N24 is what happens when Le Mans drops the formalities for fun: one big party with over 200,000 of your closest friends, and over 200 acts performing on one massive stage (you’ll want to consult this guide from Top Gear to prepare for the madness to come)!

The festivities run from 10 through 13 May, with the big show kicking off the afternoon of 12 May. Tickets to the N24 range from €29 for a Sunday ticket and €64 for a four-day pass, to €499 for a VIP ticket.

The World – Formula E: The future of motorsport is electric; what better way to bear witness than experiencing the future with Formula E.

The series features 10 teams of two drivers each competing around the world in all-electric race cars, including four events in Rome, Paris, Berlin, and Zurich between mid-April and early June during the 2017-18 season. Each race runs for 50 minutes with a mandatory pit stop to change cars, as the batteries for each car only lasts so long; this issue will cease to be one in the 2018-19 season, when the second-generation Formula E car takes to the grid. Plus, fans can vote social media to give their favorite drivers an extra boost of electric power, the top three winning drivers receiving an additional 100 kilojoule of energy within a given window during competition.

Tickets to each event can be had through the links above. Some events are sold-out already, however.

• TENNIS

London – Wimbledon: The Championships, Wimbledon—Wimbledon, for short—is the oldest tennis tournament in the world, born on the grass courts of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on 9 July 1877. Wimbledon is one of the four jewels of the Grand Slam crown—the Australian Open, the French Open, and the US Open are the other three—and the only one still played on grass.

From 2 through 15 July, around 100 men and 100 women (and their respective alternates) will compete for a share of £31.6 million (€35.2 million) in prize money.

Tickets to the annual strawberries-and-cream tourney range from £42 (€47) for a seat in the No. 3 Court on the first day of competition, to £210 (€234) for a chance to witness the winners raise the Wimbledon Cup (men’s singles) and Rosewater Dish (women’s singles) in the Center Court on the final day of competition. You’ll find what you need to know about purchasing a ticket here.

Paris – French Open: Officially known as Roland-Garros (named after the host venue Stade de Roland-Garros, which, in turn, is named after famed WWI French aviator Roland Garros), the French Open is the only Grand Slam tennis tournament played on red clay, and is the most physically demanding tennis tourney in the world.

The top men and women tennis players in the ATP and WTA will battle on the court for a chunk of nearly €40 million prize money starting 27 May, culminating in the presentation of the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen (women’s singles trophy) and the Coupe des Mousquetaires (men’s singles trophy) 9 and 10 June, respectively.

Tickets sales for the 2018 Roland-Garros are set to begin 7 March for premium packages, 21 March for all packages; the Sensation Package is on sale now, as are corporate packages. Prices range from €15 for those attending the evening matches, to €605 for a package deal which allows you backstage access to the French Open.

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