Limiting virus transmission during a Sporting Mega Event: COVID-19 and UEFA EURO 2020

Lead Research Organisation: University of Stirling
Department Name: School of Health Sciences

Abstract

The EURO 2020 football tournament, scheduled to take place across various European cities in June and July 2021, will be the first Sporting Mega Event (SME) to take place since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. SMEs present a challenge to public health and Governments as the circulation of athletes and supporters poses issues for different risk environments. Therefore, it is imperative that we analyse, inform and evaluate the COVID-19 mitigation measures and related behaviours around large sporting events. The tournament organisers UEFA have stated a preference for spectators to attend EURO 2020 matches where local restrictions permit, with appropriate mitigation measures in place. However, the third wave of COVID-19 spreading across Europe in Spring 2021 has meant that the number of spectators attending the tournament is likely to be reduced. Following the EURO 2020 tournament, the Rugby League World Cup (RLWC) is due to take place in various stadia across England in October and November 2021 in a similar format to the EURO 2020 tournament. It is therefore likely that the RLWC will be the first SME since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic to take place with full capacity crowds in attendance.

This project will therefore study both SMEs with respect to their adherence, mitigation and policies to limit virus transmission. These tournaments provide a unique opportunity to study i) the guidelines issued to host cities and, in particular, host venues for EURO 2020 and RLWC matches to limit transmission of COVID-19 and how these are applied; and ii) supporters' attitudes and experiences regarding mitigation measures during the tournaments. Adopting a mixed-method approach incorporating three Work Packages (WPs), the project will address fundamental gaps in the knowledge base regarding the safe hosting of SMEs and other mass gatherings in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, WP1 will contextualise UEFA'S policies with host nations' approaches to reducing the transmission of COVID-19 by analysing policy documents, emerging evidence and stakeholder views; WP2 will measure spectators' experiences regarding COVID-19 mitigation measures through an online questionnaire with those who attended UK-based EURO 2020 matches; and WP3 will involve participant observation and data collection at EURO 2020 and RLWC tournament sites to monitor COVID-19 mitigation measures. The project offers the opportunity to provide practical evidence regarding measures to mitigate virus transmission risks during EURO 2020 to inform the planning and delivery of the RLWC. Overall, the project will examine, inform and improve the implementation and effectiveness of COVID-19 mitigating measures for the UEFA EURO 2020 tournament, RLWC and future similar large sporting or cultural events.

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