UEFA launches Circular Economy guidelines


UEFA launches circular economy guidelines Image: MJR Group Ltd./Coliseum

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) recently launched its Circular Economy Guidelines in conjunction with Zero Waste Week and the launch of the UEFA Football Sustainability Strategy 2030 – titled ‘Strength Through Unity’ – earlier this year.

‘UEFA’ stated that the overarching strategy contains 11 policies, one of which focuses on circular economy, and the launch of the guidelines on that topic featured panel discussions between experts in the field from across the European football, political and corporate spectrum.

Nyon (Switzerland)-based the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) is one of six continental bodies of governance in association football. It governs football, futsal and beach soccer in Europe as well as Israel in Asia and the Eurasian transcontinental countries of Russia, Turkey, Cyprus, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, and Kazakhstan. UEFA consists of 55 national association members. Because of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, FIFA and UEFA suspended all Russian national representative teams and club teams from any FIFA and UEFA competitions.

In the UEFA context, circular economy refers to the optimization of the consumption and life cycle of products, most notably food, packaging and branded items throughout UEFA operations and events. The organization’s 2030 ambition is to embed the so-called ‘4R approach’ – built around reducing, reusing, recycling, and recovering – in all operations to minimize the impact of football on the environment and drive resource efficiency and cost savings.

‘UEFA’ further stated that the guidelines include three sections: An introduction to the circular economy concept and the 4R framework, best practice and factsheets in the food and beverage domain by various football stakeholders (created with the support of UEFA’s commercial partner PepsiCo) and an outlook into forthcoming circular economy focus areas – energy and water, apparel and football equipment, and event materials (signage, brand production and furniture and IT equipment).

These guidelines provide simple, practical and essential information on key aspects of the circular economy. It is a tool that will help national associations, event organizers, clubs, and other football stakeholders navigate this complex subject and start the journey towards zero plastic and food waste (to landfill) football matches by 2030.

Circular Economy

Circular economy is a concept, with interconnected ramifications on climate change, biodiversity, pollution, conflict minerals, and socioeconomics.

Waste Minimization

  • UEFA role is to bring about change through procurement and engagement with suppliers;
  • Waste minimization is one of the pillars of a circular economy;
  • By effectively working on waste minimization, UEFA will accelerate the transition to a circular economy; and
  • Urgent change is therefore needed to minimize waste in football: The time for talk is over and the need of the hour is action.


The 4R Framework: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Recover

  • Make product redundant by abandoning its function or by offering the same function with a radically different product;
  • Make a product use more intensive (e.g. through sharing products, or by putting multifunctional products on the market);
  • Increase efficiency in product manufacture or use by consuming fewer natural resources and materials;
  • Reuse by another consumer of discarded product which is still in good condition and fulfills its original function;
  • Repair and maintenance of defective product so it can be used with its original function;
  • Restore an old product and bring it up to date;
  • Use discarded product or its parts in a new product with a different function;
  • Use parts of discarded product in a new product with the same function;
  • Process materials to obtain the same (high grade) or lower (low grade) quality; and
  • Incineration of materials with energy recovery.

Maintained Michele Uva, UEFA Football and Social Responsibility Director, “The circular economy is an important pillar of UEFA’s Football Sustainability Strategy 2030. Collaborating with PepsiCo and several European clubs to assess aspects of circularity in food and beverage was instrumental in the development of the UEFA guidelines. I look forward to seeing these guidelines translated into tangible actions within UEFA, across UEFA events and collaboratively across European football to help us achieve our aspirational targets around zero plastic waste and food waste.”

The guidelines will help national associations, leagues, clubs, sponsors, event organizers, and other football stakeholders start the journey towards hitting those targets by 2030.

A Collaborative Approach

Circular economy practices were tested last season with several clubs that participated in the UEFA Champions League, which led to the creation of a database of best practices and the formation of a consultation group among clubs to share knowledge and discuss common challenges, and a feasibility analysis.

Additionally, the UEFA collaborated with PepsiCo, a partner of UEFA since 2015 across various men’s and women’s football competitions, to implement circular economy practices at the 2022 UEFA Champions League final. These new guidelines were supported by PepsiCo, as well as the European Club Association (ECA).

The UEFA Champions League is an annual club football competition organized by the Union of European Football Associations and contested by top-division European clubs, deciding the competition winners through a round-robin group stage to qualify for a double-legged knockout format, and a single leg final.

Added Katharina Stenholm, PepsiCo Europe Senior Vice-President and Chief Sustainability Officer, “We are proud of the partnership and work PepsiCo and UEFA have been able to accomplish to ensure that European football is more sustainable. At the core of our partnership is the desire to support the transition to circular economy food and beverage practices with the aim of producing the first zero waste to landfill UEFA final by 2024.

Stenholm further stated, “Reshaping the circular economy in ways that minimizes waste and promotes sustainable solutions for our environment will take courage, vision and the collective efforts of the truly dedicated: That includes fans, athletes, clubs, and corporations. In partnership with UEFA, I am confident that we can bring together our collective strengths to transform systems and create new opportunities that create a more sustainable future for footballers and fans across the globe.”

Commented Charlie Marshall, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of European Club Association, “ECA’s member clubs, as key stakeholders at the heart of the football industry, are poised to play a crucial role in promoting the sustainability of the entire football ecosystem, including the circular economy. Hundreds of clubs across Europe are willing and able to become ‘sustainability champions’ so that club football can act as a role model for the entire football ecosystem, including fans and the society at large. ECA is supporting our clubs and key partners such as UEFA in implementing more sustainable solutions to improve the social and environmental impact of football, and it is with this goal in mind that we have set up a new ECA sustainability working group, composed of clubs from across all of Europe, to oversee and lead ECA’s sustainability strategy.”

The panel discussions focused on circular economy from a strategic angle, highlighting the opportunities for collaborative solutions in the European football landscape as well as the challenges and opportunities around implementing the guidelines across football stakeholders.

Put in Emmanuelle Maire, Head of Unit for Circular Economy, Directorate General for Environment, European Commission, “We welcome the launch of the UEFA circular economy guidelines. We encourage clubs, national associations, players, and supporters to reduce their environmental impact by taking concrete actions such as reducing food and plastic waste, separating waste, using reusable products or buying green with the EU Ecolabel. We very much look forward to the UEFA’s forthcoming measures to reduce energy and water use. Together, we can unite our efforts and drive the transition to a sustainable and circular economy.”

Concluded Emilie Bølviken, professional football player, Lyn FC, “Providing fans, players and venues with the opportunities to be circular is the key to sustainability. Institutions like UEFA, sponsors like PepsiCo, and community leaders like clubs and players need to lead by example. I look forward to the implementation of the circularity guidelines across European football so we can use our enormous reach and influence to set the tone for global football sustainability.”

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