Latest UEFA data shows the Return to Play operational and medical protocol is helping to minimise the risks of playing European club and national team competitions during the pandemic.
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Since the Return to Play Protocol established medical and operational standards for staging European club and national team competitions last summer, UEFA has successful staged more than 1,000 matches with only 12 games called off due to the pandemic.
The data covers 1,028 games played across 12 competitions from 15 August 2020 to 4 January 2021. It includes the Champions League, Europa League, Women's Champions League, the Nations League, EURO 2020 play-offs, Under-21 and Women's EURO qualifiers.
"This is a phenomenal achievement and the result of a lot of hard work by UEFA, associations, clubs, players, officials and local authorities – all working in partnership," said UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin.
"Football has once again demonstrated its importance to the well-being of fans during lockdown and I am delighted that UEFA has led the way in being able stage games in such difficult circumstances," he said.
Geographic and logistical complexities
To ensure the matches could go ahead with minimum risk to everyone involved, UEFA conducted approximately 125,000 COVID-19 tests of which 1,459 revealed positive cases – the vast majority among team delegations.
"No other governing body has been able to deliver such a large number of fixtures with such geographic and logistical complexities," added Mr Čeferin. "These numbers confirm that it is possible to play football matches safely as long as there is a robust protocol in place that ensures the safety of all those involved."
UEFA's Return to Play Protocol – third edition
The protocol was first published ahead of UEFA's official return to play in August 2020, following the temporary halt to all its club and national team competitions.
"Despite these encouraging results, we are taking nothing for granted and continue to update the Return to Play protocol to ensure it reflects changing conditions and regulations across Europe's multiple national jurisdictions," said Mr Čeferin.
Now in its third edition, the document provides medical, sanitary, hygiene and operational procedures for all parties taking part in and/or organising UEFA matches. These are then translated into actual operational procedures for each location. Topics include:
- Requirements for social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing
- Adoption of travel and accommodation policies aimed at further minimising the risk of infection and transmission
- Testing players, staff and officials (as provided by leading European medical diagnostic services provider SYNLAB)
The breakdown by competitions
- Champions League & Europa League: 62,493 tested, 691 positive cases
- Nations League: 19,583 tested, 173 positive cases
- Women's EURO qualifying: 9,222 tested, 135 positive cases