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New UEFA guidelines propel European football towards circular consumption model

A 4R approach to apparel, equipment, events materials, energy and water will support European football’s transition from a linear to circular model of consumption.

UEFA has released updated Circular Economy Guidelines, aiming to revolutionise football's consumption model and significantly cut waste in apparel, equipment and event materials, as well as energy and water usage.

This latest edition builds on the guidelines introduced during last year’s Zero Waste Week, which focused specifically on moving to a circular model of food and beverage provision in football.

The guidelines aim to assist National Associations, clubs and stakeholders in the European football community in reducing the sport's environmental footprint. With just 9% of materials currently being reused or recycled, UEFA is committed to shifting European football towards a circular model emphasising the 4Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle and recover.

Michele Uva, UEFA Director Social and Environmental Sustainability

“Circular economy in football is a new and fascinating concept, and these UEFA guidelines offer a practical approach to embed it in our game. We have developed the 4R framework as a guiding principle and applied it to football, in collaboration with National Associations, the ECA, clubs and commercial partners.”

Access the guidelines

Circular Economy Event Checklist

In addition to the latest edition of the guidelines, a bespoke checklist has been produced to support national associations, leagues and clubs in assessing the circularity of the football events they host. In this context, football events are more than just matches. They encompass congresses, seminars, workshops, and various other engaging activities convened by football organisations. The checklist supports an assessment across food and beverage, apparel and football equipment, event materials, and energy and water.

Exploring product life cycles

In the 'apparel & football equipment' section of the guidelines, there is an exploration of product life cycles and the relevant legislation governing their production and consumption. This underscores the pressing need to promote sustainability and reduce waste in this sector.

Moving on to 'event materials', the guidelines scrutinise the environmental impact of items such as signage, brand production, furniture and ICT equipment. The emphasis is on integrating circular criteria into the procurement process.

In the realm of 'energy & water', the guidelines advocate for the adoption of the 4R framework. This serves as a guiding principle for implementing effective measures to reduce energy and water consumption while transitioning to renewable energy sources.

Lastly, the 'food & beverage' section, introduced last year, delves into existing legislation and provides practical implementation data sheets.

An eight-step approach

Produced in collaboration with National Associations, member clubs of the European Club Association (ECA), commercial partners (including PepsiCo, adidas and Macron), subject matter experts, academics and European institutions, the guidelines showcase an eight-step approach to implementing the 4R framework: selecting accountable individuals, analysing specific contexts, defining missions, setting KPIs, prioritising solutions, creating action plans, monitoring progress and reporting on achievements.

The guidelines will be widely distributed within the European football community. UEFA will work closely with sustainability officers from National Associations and clubs to ensure best practices are implemented through workshops and monitoring. This effort will also extend to tailoring recommendations for individual events. Furthermore, the guidelines will undergo regular updates to integrate emerging best practices, innovations and regulatory changes.

Circular Economy is a key component of UEFA's 'Strength Through Unity' Sustainability Strategy 2030, representing one of 11 key policies, and has been working closely with partners PepsiCo, Just Eat Takeaway.com and Heineken to reduce food and plastic waste at important matches, including the latest editions of the Men’s and Women’s Champions League Finals.

Guidelines launch

On 8 November, UEFA marked the unveiling of the guidelines by hosting an event at its HQ in Nyon, with an experts panel moderated by Sky Sports presenter David Garrido.

At the heart of the event was a panel, titled ‘Circular economy challenges, innovations and practices’, featuring Diane Caldwell (player for FC Zürich Frauen and the Republic of Ireland, and We Play Green representative), Philipp Hessberger (Advisor to the Board, Eintracht Frankfurt Fussball AG), Viviane Gut (Senior Director, Sustainability Direction, adidas), Joanna Czutkowna (Director, I Went Shopping Today) and Thomas Klar (Head of Brand Operations, UEFA).

Circular Economy Guidelines launch, 2023