UEFA can pride itself on the success its national team and club competitions have enjoyed for nigh on 60 years. That success is due in large part to it always keeping a close eye on its competitions and making adjustments to them when the time is right.
The most recent example concerns the UEFA European Under-21 Championship, whose final tournament is to be expanded from eight to 12 teams, as decided by the UEFA Executive Committee at its meeting in January. The same process of expansion has been applied to the UEFA European Football Championship (for UEFA EURO 2016), the UEFA European Women's Championship (for UEFA Women's EURO 2017) and some of the youth competitions.
Any decision to expand a final tournament must always be for sporting reasons above all else. No one would argue that this is not the overriding factor when it comes to expanded under-age tournaments, which require a bigger financial investment by UEFA in order to give more young players the opportunity to experience the final round of a UEFA competition, experience which is hugely valuable for their development.
More scepticism may be aroused when it comes to the reasons for expanding the European Football Championship final round. However, the strength of our national teams, who regularly shine in the FIFA World Cup, should not be overlooked. Nor should the arrival on the scene of new forces, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, who want nothing more than to upset the established order. And we should not belittle the national associations' efforts to improve their coaching and facilities so that the quality of the game continues to rise at all levels – progress that UEFA strongly supports through the HatTrick programme and initiatives such as the UEFA Coaching Convention and the Study Group Scheme.
For all these reasons and more, I am sure that UEFA EURO 2016, which is gathering pace following the qualifying draw in Nice, will be a dazzling demonstration of the vitality and quality of our national teams.
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