In a new UEFA.tv documentary, President Aleksander Čeferin and other UEFA officials explain how European club and national team competitions have returned to play so successfully and safely, despite the pandemic.
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Exactly one year after the decision to postpone UEFA EURO 2020 by 12 months, UEFA.tv today launches a brand-new documentary offering a unique, behind-the-scenes look at what it has taken to safeguard European football – from its temporary halt to its return to play.
A Year Under COVID-19 charts life inside UEFA from the perspective of its senior officials, whose leadership was central to the safe conclusion of four club competitions last summer and remains critical to this day.
For the first time, this feature-length documentary gives viewers an insight into the hours of hard work, research and analysis guiding decisions that brought UEFA national team and club matches back to stadiums across the continent and into living rooms all over the world.
On March 17 2020, the UEFA Executive Committee announced that EURO 2020 would be postponed by a year, with the game suspended across the globe due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Club competitions were also put on hold with no guarantee of when they could resume.
Yet, by August, UEFA club competitions had returned in a series of unforgettable final eight tournaments – a feat that had seemed barely plausible just a few months before – while national team football followed the same path a month later.
How did it happen?
A Year Under COVID-19 explains all, from the difficult but essential decision to suspend plans for EURO 2020 to the crucial negotiations and teamwork that allowed the game to get back up and running so quickly and safely.
The documentary reserves special focus for the development of the UEFA Return To Play Protocol, which established operational and medical guidelines for staging around 1,500 matches and implementing more than 125,000 COVID-19 tests since last August.
A year like no other - in their own words
Aleksander Čeferin, UEFA President
"To be honest, we haven’t slept much this year. It was tough. It was not easy, but I saw that the team is great, that we can do it, that football brings hope. People were locked down at home and at least they could watch football. So, I’m very proud of the work of the UEFA team. I’m very proud of the unity that we showed. I’m very proud of the whole ecosystem of European football.
"You can call it trust, you can call it unity, you can call it solidarity. We worked all together, we trusted each other. UEFA the governing body, the leagues, clubs and of course our national associations, and without trust we wouldn't finish the season as we did. So, if anything optimistic came out of this crisis, it's trust."
Giorgio Marchetti, UEFA deputy general secretary
"What we had to guarantee, in particular, was the safety of all the participants. Not only the teams and referees, of course, but all those who were involved around these matches, the staff working in the stadiums, the media, the journalists. So, everyone. And, with the conditions that we had at the time, and being practically the first events to appear after the big COVID disruption, I guess that this was quite an achievement."
Nadine Kessler, UEFA chief of women's football
"I cannot tell you how many times [the] formats, regulatory frameworks, and protocols were being developed... calendar adjustments. It happened over and over and over again. It was a never-ending story. Every day you thought, 'Okay, now I have the solution for our situation, for the problem.' The next day, you had to throw it in the bin.
"For us, it was really important to bring women’s football back to centre stage at the same time as we did with our men’s competitions. So, a big signal, and luckily the Spanish stepped in and we could stage a fantastic final eight."
Dr Zoran Bahtijarevic, third vice-president of the UEFA medical committee, which developed the Return to Play protocol
"We were trying to look into the crystal ball and see what the future will be. It was something completely new, unheard of, no experiences in the world, no medical data, no scientific data. Nothing. It was the first time ever that the sport completely stopped, not even during the World Wars there was such a long break and sport completely stopped.
"There were hundreds of people who were working on this protocol very intensely. It's not only a document, it's not only writing on some paper. It's working - we’ve had 1500 matches after we started and there was not a single case of transmission among the players of the different teams."
UEFA.tv's unprecedented access and insight
A Year Under COVID-19 is the latest UEFA.tv documentary offering a unique view inside European football.
It follows Man in the Middle, a four-part series showing up close and personal what it takes to be a UEFA Champions League referee, and OUTRAGED, in which the biggest names in football, past and present, reveal their own personal experiences of racism and discrimination.
Access to UEFA.tv is free-to-view with registration. The platform is available on web, Android and iOS smartphone and tablet apps, Hisense VIDAA Smart TVs, PlayStation 4 consoles, Apple TV, Android TV and Amazon Fire TV.
Existing UEFA digital users can sign in to UEFA.tv using their standard account credentials.