Reopening elite sport during the COVID-19 pandemic: Experiences from a controlled return to elite football in Denmark

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2021 Apr;31(4):936-939. doi: 10.1111/sms.13915. Epub 2021 Jan 21.


As the SARS-CoV-2 infection rate decreased in spring 2020, phased reopening of Danish society began, including a reopening of elite football (soccer), adhering to a strict protocol. In this study, we report the consequences of resumption of competitive play in the two best football (soccer) leagues for men in Denmark measured by number of SARS-CoV-2 positive players. The players were tested weekly for SARS-CoV-2 for 11 consecutive weeks. The test protocol comprised 26 teams with 748 players. In total, 6511 tests were done with a positivity rate of 0.06%. The incidence rate of players testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 was 0.53% (4/748). There were no signs of a chain of infection. We found a low incidence rate of SARS-CoV-2, and based on this, a controlled reopening of professional football strictly following a detailed protocol appears safe for the players.

Keywords: 2019-nCoV; COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; athlete; coronavirus; elite sport; football; soccer.

MeSH terms

  • Athletes
  • COVID-19 / diagnosis
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • COVID-19 Testing
  • Denmark
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Pandemics*
  • Return to Sport / standards*
  • Soccer*