UEFA EURO 2020: Insights for crisis management?

UEFA EURO Football Crisis Management

UEFA's European Championship is still in full swing and yet, as the group stage draws to a close, it is already apparent that crisis management offers some grounds for discussion.

A contribution from Marcel Hagens

On the opening day of UEFA EURO 2020, Denmark international Christian Eriksen collapsed in mid-match with a cardiac arrest and was successfully resuscitated on the spot - thank God! - the world watched in shock. At the same time, it quickly became clear that even UEFA, which has decades of experience in planning and staging major sporting events, was not 100% prepared for such an event.

On the medical side, most things worked very well. The German emergency physician Dr. Jens Kleinfeld, in his role as the Doping Control Officer , was personally on-site and had also trained the Medical Sideline Team shortly before. When the emergency occurred, not only the Medical Sideline Team team knew what to do. Dr. Kleinfeld was able to personally supervise the resuscitation efforts.

Crisis management: Could the crisis be brought under control?

Yes, the medical situation could be controlled due to the precise preparation and training of the team. The protocols foreseen for this purpose were successfully carried out.

After the medical component of such an emergency, which is the focus in the first moment, further aspects become visible. In this case, some factors were poorly prepared or not carried out properly and both situations show a need for optimization:

Can we draw any conclusions from this event?

Christian Eriksen's collapse is not an isolated incident. In the past, there have already been similar incidents in which many (young) athletes collapsed during training or competitions in various sports and had to be resuscitated.

This shows that organizations, associations, and clubs have failed and continue to fail to learn from previous incidents and understand the implications of such an incident.

Because there was another incident during the current European Championship, which happened during the France-Germany match, just three days after Christian Eriksen collapsed.

During the match, French international Benjamin Pavard lay motionless on the pitch. In a post-match interview, he confirmed that he had been injured after colliding with Robin Gosens in the second half and was"incapacitated for 10 to 15 seconds".

UEFA's 2014 concussion protocols state, "In the event of a suspected concussion, the referee will stop play for up to three minutes to allow the injured player to be examined by the team doctor. A player may only continue to play if the team doctor confirms to the referee that the player is able to continue playing". That's exactly what happened while the world watched.

Transfer of the Responsibility for general regulations?

To ensure the safety of football players, teams would have to be stripped of decision-making authority if a head or spinal injury is suspected.

In many professional sports, a player is immediately ejected from the game if he loses consciousness. In the American NFL, for example, an official observer watches for suspicious situations using TV footage. If a suspicious situation is discovered, the game is stopped immediately. The player must undergo a specialist examination before being cleared to return to the field or sent to the hospital for further treatment.

Such a function could be taken over in football by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), who looks at the screen during the match anyway observing both players and the game.

Good crisis management = sense of responsibility at all levels

A crisis requires decisive leadership, which is often independent of the normal hierarchy in a company or organization. What is necessary and effective in managing a crisis may thus conflict with other objectives.

So, from a medical standpoint, it is in the injured player's best interest to be taken out of the game and thoroughly examined. Fans, teammates, sponsors, coaches, and even the player himself may see it differently at that moment, as they are focused on winning the game.

Certainly, organizing committees and (inter)national federations must take the lead here, but there can no longer be any excuse for clubs, stadiums, theatres, and other venues not to be prepared for the inevitable.


Our team at WB Risk Prevention Systems is ready to assist you preparing for these scenario’s. If you want to learn more, please contact us.

Because if the UEFA EURO 2020 incidents teach us anything, it is that emergencies and disasters will happen again and again. By failing to prepare for the inevitable, you are effectively preparing to fail.