How has COVID-19 changed the 2020 UEFA Europa League?
While novel coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions have slowly started to ease throughout Europe, several protocols have been put into place for the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) that place an impetus on precautionary measures.
What are the new rules?
UEFA published a set of restrictions related entirely to COVID-19 to help guarantee that Europa League and Champions’ League matches are able to take place in as normal an environment as possible.
On Tuesday, the UEFA Executive Committee met to approve the new regulations, which will also apply to international matches slated to take place this year.
The rules relate entirely to the 2020/2021 campaign.
What’s interesting is that the responsibility for COVID-19 safety has been placed mainly on the home teams. For example, if the government of the home team has set travel restrictions from the visiting country, then the home team is expected to find a suitable, alternate venue to function as a “neutral country.”
An inability to find a suitable pitch for play will result in the home team forfeiting and losing the match.
Additionally, if the home team’s government has any restrictions tied to travel or playing at the last minute, that will also result in forfeiture and loss for the home team.
Break it down for me, what else can we expect?
All teams are required to appoint a medical liaison officer, preferably the team doctor, to guarantee testing protocols and requirements are met.
All teams are required to appoint a protocol compliance officer. The role will be responsible for guaranteeing that travel, accommodation, and hygiene and distancing measures are fulfilled.
The new role of a hygiene officer was created. The position will work with authorities to review and implement stadium protocols.
Players have (wisely) been cautioned against swapping jerseys.
COVID-19 tests will be a requirement for club squads and staff two or three days before an away trip. They will also be required for the home team one or two days before a match. Local authorities are authorized to test teams again the day before a match, if necessary.
Test results will be sent to the UEFA, in addition to delivery to the medical liaison six hours before kickoff.
Chartered flights are recommended for all teams to ensure team members and staff avoid contact with the general population, in addition to traveling on a fully disinfected plane.
Visiting teams are expected to stay at hotels reserved exclusively for them.
If a tournament team is staying at a location longer than expected, the team must ensure a staff member is doing their laundry (instead of hotel staff).
What can we expect for rosters?
Clubs are obligated to play if they have 10 or more cases but are still able to field a 13-man roster (including a goalie).
If clubs do not have 13 or more players, it will be permissible to find more players not mentioned on the submitted roster to start the season for both the Euro League and Champions’ League.
If they fail to find 13 then they will forfeit the match and lose 3-0.
What about referees?
Should a referee contract or come down with COVID-19, a referee from the country of the home team will be able to substitute.
Neutral referees will be necessary to prevent home-team bias in penalty calls.