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EURO 2020: ten rules you might not know

UEFA's regulations cover everything from what happens to the trophy to what numbers the players can wear.

Did you know head coaches are obliged to attend a press conference after every game?
Did you know head coaches are obliged to attend a press conference after every game? POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The basics of UEFA EURO 2020 we reckon you've got: 24 teams in six groups aiming to get to the 16-nation knockout stage. Teams get three points for a win, with ties broken by head-to-head before overall group comparison starts with goal difference, etc, etc.

However, the official regulations consist of around 19,000 words spread over 70 pages – and we have sifted through them to find ten rules you might not be aware of.

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1. Eyes on the prize

The Henri Delaunay Cup, the official UEFA EURO trophy which is presented to the winning team after the final, remains in UEFA's keeping after the ceremony; the victors actually take home a full-size replica (which cannot leave the association's country without UEFA's prior written consent).

The real thing
The real thing©UEFA.com

The winners also receive 40 gold medals – and the runners-up 40 silver medals – to distribute among players and staff. Every side in the final tournament will receive a commemorative dedicated plaque.

2. Paying the penalty

If two teams facing each other in their last group game are dead level, and draw, their position in the group is determined by a penalty shoot-out (unless there is another nation on the same number of points, in which case normal tie-break rules apply).

This scenario is yet to occur in a senior UEFA EURO, although in 2008 it could have happened when Czech Republic met Turkey in Geneva with the sides level in second place in Group A (in the days of a 16-team tournament when no third-placed countries could progress). Having been two down, Turkey equalised through Nihat Kahveci with three minutes left. A group stage penalty shoot-out loomed, only for Nihat to find a winner in the 89th minute.

There have been group penalty shoot-outs in other UEFA competitions: in the 2003 Women's U19 EURO, Sweden beat Italy 4-2 on spot kicks having conceded in added time to draw the match 3-3 and end up tied in second place in their section. Sweden went on to lose in the semi-finals – on penalties, having conceded to Norway in added time.

If two or more teams who do not play their last group match against each other finish level on points, various criteria are used to separate them. Firstly, head-to-head record is considered before overall group comparison starts with goal difference. See Article 20.01 for full details.

Additionally, Article 21.03 explains how the four best third-placed teams also progress to the last 16. Eventual winners Portugal qualified for the knockout stage in this manner in 2016.

3. Try again

If a match cannot start or cannot be played in full, it is, as a rule, played or completed on the next day, if possible at the same venue. A match that was abandoned is continued from the minute at which it was interrupted (with the same scoreline, and with the ball in the same spot). Teams are allowed to change players for the rescheduled or resumed game (from those within their finals squad) with these exceptions:

  • Players suspended for, or sent off or substituted during, the original game cannot take part.
  • A team that had one or more players sent off will remain down to ten or fewer players.*
  • Teams can make only the number of substitutions to which they were still entitled when the match was abandoned.
  • Yellow cards from the game remain valid on resumption.

*If there are fewer than seven players on either of the teams, the match is not played or is abandoned.

4. Bonus squad members and substitutions

Match officials have a word during a substitution at UEFA EURO 2016
Match officials have a word during a substitution at UEFA EURO 2016Getty Images

To mitigate the risks of teams facing a shortage of available players due to possible positive COVID-19 tests and subsequent quarantine measures, it has been decided to exceptionally increase the squads for all participating teams to 26 players. However, 23 players will remain the maximum number permitted for each individual match.

Once squads have been submitted, there can be unlimited replacements before the first match in the event of serious injury or illness (including COVID-19 or 'close contact' to a positive case). Goalkeepers can be replaced during the tournament in the event of physical incapacity, even if one or two goalkeepers in the squad are still available. A player who has been replaced cannot be re-added to the squad.

Teams will be allowed to use a maximum of five substitutes, with a sixth substitute allowed exclusively during extra time. Each team may use a maximum of three stoppages in play to make substitutions (half-time and full time, as well as half-time in extra time, do not reduce the number of stoppages in play that can be used). An additional stoppage may be used during extra time.

5. Timekeeping

Both sides must be at the stadium at least 75 minutes before kick-off, which is also the deadline for the submission of match sheets to the officials. Teams are provided with a countdown to kick-off, letting them know when the on-pitch warm-ups can start and end, and when they should be ready to walk on from the tunnel. The national anthem of each side is limited to a maximum of 90 seconds.

6. Don’t forget your passport

Many more teams than normal may be at 'home' during UEFA EURO 2020, but players must still remember their passports as their identity and eligibility is double-checked. Regulation 46.02 states: “Each player taking part in the competition must be in possession of a valid passport or identity card of the country for which he is playing, containing a photograph and giving full particulars of his date of birth (day, month, year). Otherwise, he will not be allowed to take part in the competition."

7. The numbers game

Shirt numbers between 1 and 26 are allocated to the 26 players. The No1 must be worn by a goalkeeper but the other 25 are at the teams' discretion. Regulation 56.02 states that sides should have an extra set of unnumbered (or named) goalkeeper shirts in the same two colours as their regular goalkeeper shirts, in case an outfield player has to go in goal during a match.

8. Take your seat

Each team has a maximum of 18 people allowed on the substitutes' bench: 12 players and six officials, including a team doctor. Both sides are also entitled to five further technical seats for those giving technical support. In line with the UEFA Return to Play Protocol, the seats will be distanced between each and therefore the team seating will be extended onto the seats behind the actual bench. Additional seats will be made available to each team in the immediate vicinity, separated from the public.

9. A quick word

A super-flash interview from the UEFA Nations League Finals
A super-flash interview from the UEFA Nations League FinalsUEFA via Sportsfile

A player's job is not done just because the game is over. One player from each team (as well as the head coaches) is required to speak immediately to the host broadcaster or their main home TV rights-holding broadcaster on or next to the pitch (known in the trade as a 'super-flash interview').

The regulations also state that the coach and "at least four key players, i.e. players who had a decisive influence on the result" from each team, including the official man of the match, must be available to all TV and radio rights-holders to speak within 15 minutes of the final whistle. These are known as flash interviews.

The head coaches must also attend an official press conference to start within 20 minutes of full time. On top of that, as part of the UEFA Return to Play Protocol, a remote 'mixed zone' will take place. A conventional mixed zone, where media wait to speak with players as they pass between the dressing room and the team bus, must not be organised.

10. What’s in a name?

What you will be watching unfold is, to give it its official title, the "2018–20 UEFA European Football Championship final tournament". The competition also goes by the more familiar name of "UEFA EURO 2020". This is the 16th edition, with the 17th taking place in Germany in 2024.