Limiting Virus Transmission During a Sporting Mega Event

Examining virus transmission at UEFA EURO 2020

The UEFA EURO 2020 football tournament that took place across various European cities in June and July 2021, was 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 to reduce viral transmission.

Spectator attendance

The tournament organisers UEFA 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 that spread unevenly across Europe in Spring 2021 meant that the number of spectators attending the tournament varied from host city to host city.

For instance Wembley Stadium (London, England) and Hampden Park (Glasgow, Scotland) had vastly different policies and procedures in place to limit virus transmission, despite both being in the United Kingdom. Wembley also saw a significant increase in maximum permitted attendance as the tournament progressed.

Study objectives

The UEFA EURO 2020 tournament provided a unique opportunity to study:

  • The guidelines issued to host cities and, in particular, host venues for matches to limit transmission of COVID-19 and how these are applied; and;
  • Supporters’ attitudes and experiences regarding mitigation measures during the tournaments.
Virus transmission: stewards at Hampden asked supporters to wear their face mask at all times

Work packages

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 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. Overall, the project will examine, inform and improve the implementation and effectiveness of COVID-19 mitigating measures for the UEFA EURO 2020 tournament and future similar large sporting or cultural events.

Research briefings

With new variants of COVID-19 beginning to emerge around the world, sports clubs and governing bodies are continually having to consider measures for limiting virus transmission.

The first briefing paper from the project includes interim findings and recommendations from the research conducted to date, predominantly from UEFA EURO 2020. Click the button to access the briefing paper.

Face coverings: Limiting Virus Transmission

About the project

The ‘Limiting Virus Transmission During a Sporting Mega Event’ project is an Economic and Social Research Council funded rapid review that is part of the Institute for Social Marketing and Health in the Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport at the University of Stirling, Scotland.

Meet the team

Dr Richard Purves

Principal Investigator, University of Stirling

Professor Kate Hunt

Co-investigator, University of Stirling

Dr Matthew Philpott

Co-investigator, Healthy Stadia

Professor Niamh Fitzgerald

Co-investigator, University of Stirling

Dr Claudio Rocha

Co-investigator, University of Stirling

Dr Joe Piggin

Co-investigator, University of Loughborough

Dr Jordan Maclean

Research Assistant, University of Stirling
Research questions

RQ1: What policies are issued by UEFA and host country governments for EURO 2020 matches to limit the transmission of COVID-19 and how do they compare?

RQ2: How do local organisers interpret, view and implement UEFA and national guidance in terms of measures to be put in place at host stadia?

RQ3: To what extent do plans include engagement with local hospitality businesses to effectively manage COVID-19 transmission risks as supporters socialise before and after matches, and how might this best be achieved?

RQ4: How do supporters planning to travel to matches view and understand COVID-19 transmission risks and proposed mitigating measures?

RQ5: To what extent are planned measures implemented during EURO 2020 and how effective are they in ensuring that officials and spectators attending matches comply with measures to mitigate COVID-19 transmission?

Dissemination event at Wembley

Healthy Stadia coordinated a dissemination event for Project LIVE at Wembley Stadium to bring together stakeholders from across academia, public health and professional sport to discuss the findings of the research project and how to apply these at future sports events to help reduce viral transmission at stadia, particularly when infection rates surge.

Click the button below to access presentations from The Football Association, England and Wales Cricket Board, Sports Ground Safety Authority, UK Health Security Agency and researchers and fieldworkers from the University of Stirling.

Contact the project

If anyone has questions about the project, or who would like to make contact with the project team, please email the project’s Principle Investigator, Dr Richard Purves, in the first instance:



Tobacco Free Stadia Guidance

Learn about how your stadia can adopt No Smoking policies to protect fans from second-hand smoke


Active Travel Guidance

Find out how you can support walking and cycling to your stadia on a matchday


Healthier Catering

Food preferences are changing - find out how your stadium can adapt

About Us

Find out more about Healthy Stadia and the Healthy Stadia concept

Stadia Guidance

Support for stadia to introduce health-promoting policies


Find out more about our range of community health programmes


Learn more about how we advocate for change through sport

Research Projects

Discover how we support researchers and deliver projects


Find out how we support Europe’s governing body of football