How the Return to Play was delivered

Examine the numbers behind the return to play, hear from UEFA deputy general secretary Giorgio Marchetti on how it was achieved and watch In The Bubble – the UEFA.tv documentary on August’s finals.

Behind the scenes at the 2020 Champions League last eight
Behind the scenes at the 2020 Champions League last eight

As the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League group stages get under way for a new season, the health protocols and logistical efforts continue to help deliver European football in a safe environment.

Organising four final tournaments in four different countries – in under two months – to conclude the 2019/20 club season was an unprecedented feat in world sport. UEFA’s return to play in August had to consider national jurisdictions, with a medical protocol developed that could be applied across the board. It also put in place the framework for matches to continue to be played in a busy September and October.

As of 16 October, 491 UEFA matches had been successfully organised since the return to play in August
As of 16 October, 491 UEFA matches had been successfully organised since the return to play in AugustUEFA

As UEFA deputy general secretary Giorgio Marchetti explains, it has taken a real collective approach. “The football community really worked together,” Marchetti said. “Without the joint work and unity of intents with national associations, leagues and clubs nothing would have been achieved. And as we had only two months to set up simultaneous tournaments in Portugal, Germany and Spain, the local federations and authorities supported us massively.”

Total COVID-19 tests carried out per competition from the return to play in August until 24 September; 'additional' refers to tests related to competitions but not specific matches e.g. prescreening
Total COVID-19 tests carried out per competition from the return to play in August until 24 September; 'additional' refers to tests related to competitions but not specific matches e.g. prescreeningUEFA

That collaborative spirit will be vital going forward. “We keep the same strong determination towards all matches in the new season,” Marchetti added. “Everybody watched the final eight tournaments in August. What almost nobody knows is that from the beginning of August almost 500 UEFA matches have already been played.

“All the Champions League and Europa League qualification rounds (not one single club was excluded from the access list), two men’s and one women’s international windows, Under-21s,” he said. “There are many restrictions and a strict protocol to apply with an incredible number of tests on all teams, but these difficulties don’t scare us.”

UEFA competition matches have been played in all its 55 associations, an impressive feat across all the different jurisdictions and various, changing guidelines in place across Europe
UEFA competition matches have been played in all its 55 associations, an impressive feat across all the different jurisdictions and various, changing guidelines in place across EuropeUEFA

Since August, every single UEFA association has hosted a European club or international match. The slow reintroduction of fans back into stadiums was piloted at the UEFA Super Cup and is now being carefully rolled out, depending on local restrictions. “The Super Cup was an important milestone,” Marchetti said. “Everything was handled very professionally.

“Fans are football’s lifeblood and they must come back as soon as the conditions are in favour. For this reason, we have decided to allow a limited capacity of stadia to be filled wherever this is allowed by the competent authorities and with the necessary measures in place.”

Watch how the return to play was delivered in August in this fascinating UEFA.tv production, In The Bubble.