UEFA takes on air pollution with the Cleaner Air, Better Game campaign!

This summer, UEFA will once again build on the Under-21 EURO’s exposure to highlight the growing issue of air pollution and the threat it poses to our health and our game.

Michele Uva, UEFA’s sustainability director, sheds light on the campaign’s significance and outlines the tournament’s planned actions in collaboration with the Georgian and Romanian football associations. The Cleaner Air, Better Game campaign exemplifies our unwavering commitment to addressing specific environmental and sustainability goals as part of our sustainability strategy, Strength Through Unity.

What is the purpose of the Cleaner Air, Better Game campaign and why did you decide to relaunch it this year?

The campaign was originally launched in 2021 at the UEFA Under-21 European Championship in Slovenia and Hungary. We decided to use the platform of the most important youth national team tournament at the European level to draw the attention of the entire football landscape to the importance of environmental issues. In this specific case, we focused on air pollution, which the World Health Organisation estimates claims over seven million lives annually and is a threat to our health and the future of our game. This message was at the core of a campaign that engaged fans in the host countries and beyond. We have now relaunched it for this year’s edition of the tournament to continue raising awareness to this important issue and inspire European communities to get involved in initiatives and activities that protect the environment.

What activities will take place in Georgia and Romania during the Under-21 European Championship to leave a legacy in the host nations?

First of all, I would like to thank the presidents of the two hosting federations, Razvan Buleanu and Levan Kobiashvili, who immediately showed their support for our overall sustainability strategy and the activation of the Cleaner Air, Better Game campaign in Romania and Georgia.

We will encourage participating national associations, players, fans, volunteers and staff, all stakeholders to adopt environmentally conscious practices through various initiatives that will be organised in the host cities. These initiatives will focus on waste management, community clean-up efforts and programmes to boost sustainable travel to games.

How does this campaign fit into your overall sustainability strategy?

UEFA is the first sports organisation to have developed a 10-year football sustainability strategy, Strength through Unity. We started from the concept that football must not simply intercept and follow sustainability and societal trends – it must anticipate and initiate them. Our approach is driven by a forward-looking mindset, in which we envision a sustainable future and take concrete steps towards achieving it. We firmly believe that sustainability is not merely an expense but an investment. The Cleaner Air, Better Game campaign is one such effort that can help us tackle concrete issues and bring us closer to our goals.

How much can UEFA do about environmental issues such as this?

Football is widely regarded as the most popular sport in the world and possesses immense potential to drive positive changes. UEFA is dedicated to embracing sustainability in the long run, sincerely believing that it is our responsibility to contribute to this major cause. As we proceed, we must also be realistic and find a balance between topics where football can directly make a difference and those where our influence, although more indirect, remains significant. There are numerous challenges that football alone cannot solve, but we possess the ability to amplify awareness about the magnitude of these issues and actively engage with wider audience.

How closely will UEFA work with stakeholders like the EU to achieve its social and environmental sustainability goals?

Our mission is to inspire, empower, and accelerate collective action for social and environmental sustainability. Collaboration lies at the heart of our approach, as we believe we can achieve remarkable outcomes only by working together. We strive to support international institutions, governments, and more than four billion football fans and officials worldwide, united by the shared belief that sustainability is the cornerstone of a successful society. And, in a proper football spirit, we strive to work in synergy and create a brighter future.

What else is UEFA planning to ensure football becomes more accountable for its climate and environmental impact?

UEFA expressed its long-term commitment to drive collaborative and measurable actions, strongly convinced that sustainability at the heart of European football’s success. The 2030 UEFA Strategy is not viewed as a final destination but rather a starting point for catalysing and accelerating change. Accelerating action also necessitates innovations in areas such as circular economy, infrastructure, carbon emissions, and event sustainability. We know the transformation is necessary, but simply pouring money into outdated ideas that no longer function is not the solution. Instead, our strategy foresees a clear transition from awareness-raising and engagement-fostering to concrete actions. We are delighted to see an honest commitment of our football community to these common goals, and I am confident that they can help us inspire and mobilise society at large.

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