Bubble concept for sporting tournaments during the COVID-19 pandemic: Football Club World Cup

BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med. 2021 Jun 21;7(2):e001126. doi: 10.1136/bmjsem-2021-001126. eCollection 2021.


Objectives: To report the person-to-staff transmission of COVID-19 with the implementation of a bubble concept that included testing, hygiene, distancing and monitoring strategies to mitigate risks.

Methods: A prospective case series included all staff on-site involved in the Football Club World Cup. The tournament was conducted within 'bubbles'. All personnel travelling to the tournament were required to be in possession of a negative RT-PCR test within 72 hours of arrival and subjected to a testing schedule during the tournament. Each location was assigned a COVID-19 protocol enforcement officer to ensure adherence to regular testing, hygiene measures, physical distancing and daily symptom reporting (via ScribePro app).

Results: The study involved 70 recruited staff with a combined 1321 test days on the symptom checker app. The mean number of days completed on the symptom checker app was 18.87 days (range: 7-28). Of the five questions asked as part of the daily symptom checker, only one was answered positively (0.015%). This individual was isolated, assessed within 20 min and tested. The initial diagnosis was likely a non-COVID-19-related viral illness. Further testing returned three negative tests during the remainder of the tournament.

Conclusions: There was no person-to-staff transmission of COVID-19 during the tournament within our sample. The organisation of a sporting tournament during the COVID-19 pandemic is possible with risk mitigation strategies. These strategies include setting up a bubble with regular testing, hygiene measures, physical distancing and daily symptom reporting.

Keywords: COVID-19; football; soccer.