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UEFA in 2021: Part 1 – Meeting challenges head-on

In the first part of our review of events in 2021, from January to June, we look back at how UEFA confirmed its crucial role at the vanguard of European football – and how UEFA EURO 2020 was greeted with joy in the summer when it kicked off after a year-long delay.

Speaking at April's UEFA Congress in Montreux, UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin strongly defended the European sports model that guides UEFA's mission.
Speaking at April's UEFA Congress in Montreux, UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin strongly defended the European sports model that guides UEFA's mission. UEFA


Meeting the 12 UEFA EURO 2020 host associations/organisers, UEFA emphasises its commitment to staging the EURO across the 12 cities according to the agreed timetable.

The UEFA.com men’s and – for the first time – women’s Fans’ Teams of the Year 2020 are revealed.

Responding to speculation about the creation of a closed European 'Super League', FIFA and the six continental confederations, including UEFA, emphasise that such a competition would be against the principles of football worldwide.

Football’s power to change children’s lives
Football’s power to change children’s livesUEFA

The latest UEFA Foundation for Children annual report shows that, since 2015, the foundation’s campaign to use football to drive social good has improved the lives of more than 1 million children, across 275 projects in 109 countries.

UEFA establishes a formal institutional partnership with the UN as a landmark Memorandum of Understanding is signed with the United Nations Office in Geneva.


UEFA reports that since the Return to Play Protocol established medical and operational standards for staging European club and national team competitions in summer 2020, it has successfully staged more than 1,000 competition matches, with only 12 games called off due to the pandemic – “a phenomenal achievement”, according to UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin.

To protect the health of Europe’s younger players, UEFA cancels the 2020/21 editions of both the women’s and men’s Under-19 Championships and the 2020/21 UEFA Youth League. The 2021 UEFA Futsal Champions League finals are also relocated to Croatia to minimise the risks to everyone involved.

Ivan Rakitić becomes a UEFA Foundation for Children ambassador

Sevilla midfielder and former Croatian international Ivan Rakitić becomes the UEFA Foundation for Children’s first official ambassador.


In the interests of player welfare given the heavy fixture schedule, the UEFA Executive Committee allows the use of five substitutes at UEFA EURO 2020 and the 2021 UEFA Nations League finals – and lifts a cap on spectator attendance at UEFA matches.

UEFA announces the launch of a public awareness campaign – ‘Cleaner Air, Better Game’ – to highlight the growing threat to public health of air pollution.


UEFA unveils a new format for club competitions to be introduced in the 2024/25 season – which had been agreed by stakeholders – designed to secure the positive future of European football at every level while reconfirming principles of solidarity and open competition.

UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin addresses the Montreux Congress
UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin addresses the Montreux CongressUEFA

In his address to the UEFA Ordinary Congress in Montreux, the UEFA President, Aleksander Čeferin, urges unity and concerted action in guiding European football’s response to the COVID-19 virus and protecting the European sports model that guides the mission of UEFA. He also thanks the European football community for its support in difficult times.

As details emerge of plans for a ‘European Super League’, UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin defends European football’s principles of open competition and sporting merit.

The UEFA President invites the clubs involved in the so-called ‘European Super League’ to recognise their error and come back to the European football family.

A UEFA Congress statement also emphasises belief in a European football model founded on open competitions, solidarity and redistribution to ensure the sustainability and development of the game for the benefit of all and the promotion of European values and social outcomes.

The UEFA Women's Champions League trophy
The UEFA Women's Champions League trophyUEFA.com

With the revamped UEFA Women’s Champions League set to start in the summer, UEFA unveils a pioneering financial distribution model to herald the dawn of a more sustainable future for women’s football.

To allow, among other things, more fans to attend matches amid restrictions in place owing to the COVID pandemic, UEFA announces venue changes for certain UEFA EURO 2020 matches – Seville replaces Bilbao as a host venue, and matches in Dublin are moved to Saint Petersburg and London.

Meanwhile, other EURO hosts confirm matches with spectators.


UEFA announces a landmark consultation process - the Convention on the Future of European Football - to unite European football stakeholders and strengthen the future of the game.

Sporting CP win the 2020/21 UEFA Futsal Champions League title, the Portuguese outfit coming back from a two-goal half-time deficit to beat reigning champions Barça 4-3 in the final at the end of an expanded eight-team final tournament in Zadar, Croatia.

Barcelona claim their first UEFA Women’s Champions League title with an emphatic 4-0 win over Chelsea in the final in Gothenburg.

The new-look UEFA Women’s Champions League will have a new anthem and brand identity from the start of the 2021/22 season.

A first major European title for Villarreal
A first major European title for VillarrealGetty Images

Villarreal take their first major European club title back to Spain, beating Manchester United 11-10 in an epic penalty shoot-out, following a 1-1 draw over 120 minutes in the UEFA Europa League final in Gdańsk

The UEFA Champions League final between English sides Chelsea and Manchester City is moved from Istanbul to Porto, owing to travel difficulties for English fans after Turkey is placed on the UK’s ‘red list’.

 Chelsea celebrate winning the UEFA Champions League
Chelsea celebrate winning the UEFA Champions LeagueGetty Images

Chelsea win their second UEFA Champions League title, beating Manchester City with a single Kai Havertz goal in the final in Porto.

In a spirit of reconciliation, and for the good of European football, nine of the 12 clubs involved in the 'Super League' project submit to UEFA a ‘Club Commitment Declaration’ asking UEFA to acknowledge their decision to withdraw from the so-called ‘European Super League’ and reinforcing their clubs’ commitment to UEFA club competitions as well as national club competitions.

Get ready for the UEFA Europa Conference League

Heralding the launch in 2021/22 of a new European club competition, the UEFA Europa Conference League, UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin says: “We want to make our competitions more inclusive – to give clubs and fans the chance to dream and compete for European honours.”

The twelfth edition of UEFA’s annual club licensing benchmarking report on European club football explains how the game across the continent has shown strength and solidarity in resisting the shock of the COVID pandemic.

The player list for teams at UEFA EURO 2020 is increased to 26, to prevent teams facing a shortage of available players due to possible positive COVID-19 test results and subsequent quarantine measures.

As UEFA EURO 2020 approaches, UEFA launches a new campaign encouraging fans, players, clubs, national associations and other football stakeholders to join the fight against discrimination by signing for an Equal Game.

UEFA and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, sign a Cooperation Protocol to support refugee access to sport and enhance social inclusion.


UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin with the Henri Delaunay Trophy
UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin with the Henri Delaunay TrophyGetty Images

After a year’s delay, the eagerly awaited UEFA EURO 2020 gets underway, with 24 teams competing for European national team football’s premier prize at eleven venues across Europe. UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin speaks of "a moment to rejoice".

How UEFA funds helped European football amid the COVID crisis

….and how UEFA overcame every obstacle to keep the EURO on track

Christian Eriksen
Christian EriksenUEFA via Getty images

Denmark’s midfielder Christian Eriksen suffers a cardiac arrest during the EURO match against Finland in Copenhagen. There is joy and relief as Eriksen’s life is saved thanks to the quick and expert intervention of the medical staff and the swift immediate reaction of Danish captain Simon Kjær. The incident and its outcome demonstrates the importance of having proper medical procedures and fully-trained medical staff at matches.

Eugénie Le Sommer joins the UEFA Foundation for Children

French footballing great Eugénie Le Sommer joins the UEFA Foundation for Children as the organisation's first official female ambassador.

UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin underlines European football’s commitment to ensuring that sport plays a frontline role in protecting the planet.

By adding a new social responsibility pillar to its five-year strategy, UEFA paves the way for football to fully leverage its influence to address key global issues.

Following a broad consultation process across football, the UEFA Executive Committee approves the abolition of the long-standing away goals rule in all UEFA club competitions