In an average year, UEFA and a host venue require 12 months to plan a competition final. In 2020, it has taken a couple of months to organise three mini-tournament finals: the Champions League, the Europa League and the Women’s Champions League in Portugal, Germany and Spain respectively. In a series of articles, we ask each national association how they did it.
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Four months after UEFA announced the suspension of its 2019/20 competitions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, its elite club competitions are returning to play with a series of straight knockout tournaments hosted by the national associations of Portugal (Champions League), Germany (UEFA Europa League) and Spain (UEFA Women’s Champions League).
When these were announced in June, UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin was quick to show his gratitude to the national associations for their cooperation.
"I would like to give a special thanks to all the federations that have been involved in the changes that have been made to the locations of the venues,” he said. “When I spoke with them, they all agreed, immediately, to change the venues to adapt to the situation and they showed great solidarity. That is crucial for our work in the future.”
Creating, organising and delivering the new tournament formats within a three-month period has required unprecedented levels of collaboration and coordination between UEFA, national associations, clubs and other stakeholders. In more normal times, UEFA and a Local Organising Committee (LOC) take around 12 months to plan a competition final.
"The whole of the football community has worked hand in hand together to arrive at the point where the game can resume,” added Čeferin. “I thank everyone from the football world and from the governments who helped us to come to the situation we are [in] today.”
Focus on UEFA Europa League hosts: the German Football Federation
German Football Federation (DFB) President Fritz Keller is proud that UEFA chose the North Rhine-Westphalia region to host the Europa League finals (10-21 August).
“We greatly appreciate being entrusted with this challenge and responsibility,” he says, “UEFA's decision reflects the high standing German football enjoys with the European football community".
“I am positive we have the necessary infrastructure and experience to organise and stage a tournament of this dimension. In addition, our health and hygiene protocol and its proper implementation by the clubs have further strengthened the confidence in the DFB.
Not that the DFB will rest on its laurels when the UEL trophy is lifted in Cologne’s Stadion Köln on 21 August. First, the 2020/21 Bundesliga season is due to kick-off on 18 September; then, in October, the DFB will start preparations for hosting UEFA EURO 2020, with Munich one of the tournament’s 12 match venues.
Where will UEL matches take place in North Rhine-Westphalia?
Games in Germany will be split across four venues in the North Rhine-Westphalia region:
- Arena AufSchalke, Gelsenkirchen
- MSV Arena, Duisburg
- Dusseldorf Arena, Dussldorf
- Stadion Köln, Cologne
2019/20 UEFA Europa League schedule
Quarter-finals: 10-11 August
Semi-finals: 16-17 August
Final: 21 August
The full UEFA Europa League draw and schedule can be found here.
What helped North Rhine-Westphalia prepare for the UEL Finals so quickly?
With each of Germany’s 16 federal states adopting their own regulations for the COVID-19 pandemic, the DFB had to identify a single state equipped to host nine matches in two weeks.
With high-class stadiums, suitable transport infrastructure, hotels and training facilities, the North Rhine-Westphalia region was quickly identified as the perfect location.
As one of the first European leagues to set about completing nine rounds of domestic fixtures following the Bundesliga’s suspension in mid-March, the DFB was also ahead of the field in being able to share valuable experience about how to create a safe environment for players, officials and staff to return to play.
What will be the main challenges for UEFA and the DFB?
To meet requirements both of the local authorities and its own return to play protocol, UEFA and the DFB will need to collaborate closely with a range of political, medical and football organisations.
These include several health offices in each of the four host cities, the federal state, the German health ministry and interior ministry, as well as the participating clubs, three regional football associations, stadium operators and various PCR testing laboratories.
Germany’s history of hosting major UEFA events*
1959 – UEFA European Cup final
1962 – UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup final
1967 – UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup final
1979 – UEFA European Cup final
1981 – UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup final
1988 – UEFA European Cup final
1988 – UEFA European Championship
1993 – UEFA Champions League final
1997 – UEFA Champions League final
2001 – UEFA Cup final
2002 – UEFA Women’s Cup final
2004 – UEFA Champions League final
2004 – UEFA Under-21 Championship
2010 – UEFA Europa League final
2012 – UEFA Champions League final
2012 – UEFA Women’s Champions League final
2015 – UEFA Champions League final
2015 – UEFA Women’s Champions League final
Munich will be one of the 12 host cities of UEFA EURO 2020 and host the 2023 UEFA Champions League final, while Germany will also host the entire UEFA EURO 2024 tournament.
*This list does not include two-legged UEFA Cup or UEFA Women’s Cup finals in which German teams were competing as a home team.