A massive cross-continent effort has allowed UEFA to deliver more than 500 matches since August with a highly effective testing system at the heart of its Return to Play Protocol.
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UEFA's Return to Play Protocol made professional football among the safest environments in the world. Between 5 August and 15 October, a total of 526 games were played in ten UEFA competitions: the Champions League, Europa League, Women’s Champions League, Youth League, Super Cup, Futsal Champions League, Nations League, EURO 2020 play-offs, Under-21 and Women’s EURO qualifiers.
Across those matches, 61,851 COVID-19 tests were administered with just 341 positive cases (0.55% of those tested). The protocol set out very clearly the steps taken in the event of teams reporting coronavirus cases. As an example, during qualifying for this season’s men’s club competitions, 213 matches were played: of those, three were rescheduled, three were played at a neutral venue because of the virus, and just three were cancelled.
Commenting on the topic, UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin said: “It has been an incredible achievement to manage to play more than 97% of matches as scheduled. The number of positive tests is also extremely low at less than 1%. The Return to Play Protocol that we put in place is robust and ensures the safety of all those involved, even in these trying times when the pandemic is progressing across the continent and it gives us confidence that our competitions will be played as planned. It is a tribute to those involved and it demonstrates that matches can be played safely.”
All 81 UEFA EURO 2020 play-offs, UEFA Nations League and centralised friendlies in October were delivered as scheduled, while during the same international window 47 of 49 Under-21 qualifiers were played with the other two postponed.
Across the tests carried out in all competitions, there were 53.9 tests done per team in average and 11.8 tests per officiating team, per match. Less than half of the positive tests originated from players while the other half concerned other members of the teams’ delegations and match officials.
The UEFA Europa League was the competition where most tests were given – a total of 20,932.
In total, across all competitions, only three matches (1.4%) were cancelled. A combination of the protocol, a rigorous and efficiently deployed testing system and a collaborative logistical effort across multiple jurisdictions has paved the way for the safe return and continuation of elite European football.