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Taking UEFA into a new era

Taking UEFA into a new era
UEFA President Michel Platini ©UEFA.com
 

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A new era began for UEFA in January 2007, when Michel Platini (France), one of the world's top players from the 1980s, was elected as UEFA president at the XXXI Ordinary UEFA Congress in Dusseldorf. Lennart Johansson was subsequently named honorary president after 17 years of outstanding service to European football.

Michel Platini came to the presidency after a magnificent career as a player with AS Nancy-Lorraine, AS Saint-Étienne and Juventus at club level – plus three European Footballer of the Year awards, and a proud record of 72 appearances and 41 goals at international level with France – lifting the UEFA European Football Championship trophy as captain on home soil in 1984. He then served as France's national team coach from 1988 to 1992, and made a smooth transition to the role of football politician and administrator.

At the tenth extraordinary UEFA Congress in Zurich in May 2007, statutory amendments were made which, among other things, led to the creation of a Professional Football Strategic Council (PFSC) within UEFA, comprising UEFA's vice-presidents and representatives of the European clubs, leagues and players. In addition, the title of the head of UEFA's administration reverted back to general secretary. On 1 June 2007, David Taylor, the former chief executive of the Scottish Football Association, took over as UEFA General Secretary.

Michel Platini's presidency began with a call at the Extraordinary UEFA Congress in Zurich for an end to the strife that had affected football's health. The creation of the PFSC was described by the UEFA President as "a crucial step, with an eye to gathering together all football families”. The subsequent formation of the European Club Association (ECA) and the signing in January 2008 of a Memorandum of Understanding between the new body – representing the interests of clubs at European level – and UEFA, the governing body of European football, paved the way for harmony to return to football between the governing bodies and the clubs.

The invaluable dialogue between UEFA and football's stakeholders also resulted in changes to the formats of UEFA's club competitions, approved by the UEFA Executive Committee in November. For the 2009/10 season, the venerable UEFA Cup was replaced after 37 years by the UEFA Europa League, featuring a 48-team group stage, and breathing new sporting and commercial life into European club football's other competition.

On the national-team front, the UEFA EURO 2008 final round in Austria and Switzerland was an outstanding success in commercial and sporting terms. Even as preparatory work for that final round reached boiling point, UEFA was looking even further ahead – in the direction of eastern Europe – with the Executive Committee choosing Poland and Ukraine as hosts of UEFA EURO 2012 in April 2007. In September 2008, the EURO final-round field was increased by the UEFA Executive Committee from 16 to 24 for the 2016 event – and eventually, in May 2010, France was chosen by the UEFA Executive Committee to be the host of UEFA EURO 2016.

UEFA's tireless campaigning continued on behalf of various causes for the sake of football's well-being. A 'zero tolerance' policy was pursued against violence and racism in particular. Support was also forthcoming for, among others, football associations affected by natural disasters, homeless players, disabled players and footballers with learning difficulties, as well as youngsters in regions affected by hostilities, and the UEFA member associations continued to benefit in sporting and infrastructure terms from UEFA's HatTrick assistance programme.

Intensive political and diplomatic dialogue with the European Union progressed in a variety of areas. UEFA was also listening to the fans, and a first-ever meeting in 2007 between supporter groups and the European body came about because UEFA wanted to get closer to the fans who are the game's lifeblood. The battle against doping, corruption and illegal betting in football went on unabated, with the latter campaign leading to the strengthening of the UEFA Betting and Fraud Detection System in 2009, with more than 30,000 domestic and international matches now checked each season. In another crucial move, in September 2009, the UEFA Executive Committee approved a Financial Fair Play (FFP) concept, to curb the financial excesses that had been growing across the European club landscape, to improve the financial fairness in European competitions, and to safeguard the long-term stability of European club football.

In September 2009, the UEFA Executive Committee reviewed the structure of UEFA's marketing and commercial operations and approved the creation of a new company – UEFA Events SA, to be responsible for UEFA's business and commercial operations. David Taylor was appointed as chief executive of the new company as of 1 October 2009, and UEFA deputy general secretary Gianni Infantino was appointed as UEFA General Secretary. He took up this role on the same date.

UEFA works according to 11 key values – appropriately, the same number as a football team – that should serve as the basis for the body's activities and dialogue, on behalf of European football, with the political, economic, social and sporting world. Michel Platini presented the 11 key values in his address at the XXXIII Ordinary UEFA Congress in Copenhagen, Denmark, in March 2009. The 11 values cover the landscape of UEFA's activities – from unity and leadership, good governance and autonomy to youth protection and education, sporting integrity and financial fair play – with the promise that football will always come first in all that UEFA does.

On 22 March 2011, at the XXXV Ordinary UEFA Congress in Paris, Michel Platini was re-elected by acclamation for a second four-year term. He listed the fight against corruption, FFP, and the need to protect football's essential values for future generations as key priorities for the coming period.

UEFA EURO 2012 in Poland and Ukraine proved a magnificent success, both on and off the field – a true celebration of national-team football. Soon afterwards, in December 2012, the UEFA Executive Committee took an innovative decision that UEFA EURO 2020 will be staged in various major cities across Europe. Thirteen cities will host a true 'EURO for Europe' - giving some countries and cities the potential opportunity to be part of a tournament they may otherwise not be able to host.

During the summer of 2012, four years of experiments with additional assistant referees (AARs) came to a climax. The use of AARs – whereby two officials stand on each goalline to watch penalty-area incidents in particular – was incorporated within the Laws of the Game, and are now being deployed in UEFA's major competitions. FFP measures were beginning to have an impact, and in June 2012, UEFA launched a two-chamber Club Financial Control Body – a UEFA disciplinary organ – to add extra impetus to its FFP drive. In a related move in December, the UEFA Executive Committee took a firm stance on third-party ownership of football players, deciding that it should be prohibited as a matter of principle.

Women's football has continued to flourish. UEFA's sterling work with its national associations within the women's football development programme is having a profound effect, with more and more women and girls getting involved in the game. European club youth football also received a considerable boost with the announcement that the new UEFA Youth League was to get under way in 2013/14.

A new centralised marketing system was set up for the European national-team qualifiers to give national teams' matches more exposure and will enable the associations to increase their financial stability. In October 2012, the UEFA Executive Committee awarded the commercial rights management of its national team competitions to CAA Eleven, a company exclusively dedicated to managing the broadcasting, sponsorship and licensing rights on behalf of UEFA.

2013 saw UEFA continue its drive to combat negative elements within the game. At the XXXVII Ordinary UEFA Congress in London, the UEFA member associations adopted a resolution stepping up the fight against racism, while UEFA introduced tougher measures in its regulations against those found guilty of racism and match-fixing. Now 54 European national associations were UEFA members, following the admission of Gibraltar at the London Congress.

Football remains paramount to UEFA's vision. "Everything is possible," Michel Platini said on his re-election in March 2011. "The important thing is to keep faith and to keep our passion for this game intact, because it is only a game – while acting at the same time out of a concern for transparency, responsibility, openness, excellence and unity…. We have a notable duty to think of the next generation – the football that we want to leave to our children and grandchildren. Let us continue to have the courage to take the necessary decisions to protect football as we love it."

Last updated: 09/05/14 2.30CET
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