UEFA is set to resume its ‘Cleaner Air, Better Game’ campaign at the upcoming Under-21 Championship in Georgia and Romania this summer.
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The initiative, which debuted at the last edition of the Under-21 tournament, aims to raise awareness of the detrimental effects of air pollution on public health, which the World Health Organisation estimates claims over seven million lives annually.
Poor air quality also has a negative impact on footballers' health, with studies showing that higher levels of air pollution can reduce the pace of matches by up to 15 per cent.
The Cleaner Air, Better Game campaign plays a pivotal role in promoting collective action to monitor and reduce carbon emissions throughout the European Under-21 tournament. From national associations to players, fans, volunteers and staff, all stakeholders are encouraged to adopt environmentally conscious practices through a range of initiatives that will be organised in the host cities. These initiatives will focus on waste management, community clean-up efforts and programmes to boost sustainable travel to games.
Through the campaign, UEFA sends a powerful message to the football community and beyond: that a cleaner future is not only desirable but achievable with collective action and commitment.
UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin
"We do not inherit the planet from our ancestors but borrow it from our children. Therefore, we are responsible for leaving it in the best possible shape. And we need to do a better job at it, as the conclusions of relevant studies on air pollution are alarming. We will use football's powerful voice to raise awareness of this problem and suggest creative and fun solutions to turn things around".
"I invite all people with football in their hearts to participate in our "Cleaner Air, Better Game" campaign, not just the ones in host nations Georgia and Romania. Preserving the environment and improving the quality of the air we breathe is a global goal and one we can score only as a team. Because, in the end, our choices and actions are the ones that make the difference, not our skills and talents."
Monitor, encourage and speak up
Throughout the championship, UEFA alongside the Georgian and Romanian associations will prioritise environment, social, and governance principles in their event operations in line with a strategic approach defined for the tournament.
On the environmental front, the organisers will conduct an analysis of spectator mobility behaviour, closely monitor the event's carbon footprint, minimise the use of generators for TV broadcasts, and introduce recycling containers to raise awareness about waste separation.
UEFA and local football associations will also organise a climate workshop during the competition to share best practices and develop innovative solutions for reducing carbon emissions. It will provide a platform for dialogue and collaboration on environmental issues in football.
Lastly, the host countries will prioritise governance by publishing UEFA's event sustainability strategy in the local languages, conducting stakeholder consultations, providing training to staff and volunteers on ESG (environmental, social, and governance) topics, launching a communication campaign to raise awareness about air pollution, and disclosing their performance on ESG-focused metrics.
Stakeholders unite for a cleaner and healthier future
The campaign has received support from the European Commission, with Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans, and Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans, and Fisheries, praising the initiative's efforts to promote environmental awareness.
Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission
"Let UEFA’s clean air campaign be an inspiration for many more actions against the climate crisis across the world of professional football. Millions of Europeans love football. Watching it and playing it. No matter if we are playing on a football pitch or kicking a ball around on the street, everyone deserves to breathe clean air.”
“As fans and players, our individual choices can be of great help as well, for example, by choosing climate-friendly options to travel to a match.”
The Georgian and Romanian Football Associations have also lent their support to the campaign, emphasising the tournament's potential to raise public awareness about the importance of environmental conservation.
Levan Kobiashvili, Georgian Football Federation (GFF) president
"This important football tournament is an excellent opportunity to showcase our commitment to environmental protection and sustainability"
Răzvan Burleanu, Romanian Football Federation (FRF) president
“Through the "Cleaner Air, Better Game" campaign, we want to draw people's attention on the need for individual and collective involvement and show what football's contribution to environmental protection can be. I therefore invite you all to be part of this project, not just as mere spectators, but as actors aware of the importance of joint action for the good of future generations.”
In December 2020, the UEFA president signed the European Climate Pact, pledging to use football’s global reach to raise awareness of the climate emergency and inspire more people to take action to save the planet. Last year, UEFA also committed to reduce emissions as part of the UNFCCC Sports for Climate Action Framework.
For more details and insights on our work in the field of sustainability, access the UEFA RESPECT Report.