UEFA President Michel Platini has made a keynote speech to European clubs in which he emphasised the positive impact that is being made by UEFA's financial fair play measures and called for prompt action against the ownership of players by third parties.
In his address to the 13th general assembly of the European Club Association (ECA) in Geneva on Tuesday, Mr Platini also welcomed the "enormous" progress being made in the dialogue between European football's governing body and the European clubs. The ECA is recognised by UEFA under a memorandum of understanding and represents 214 clubs from across UEFA's member associations.
The UEFA President said that financial fair play – aimed at safeguarding the financial future of European club football – is a project that remained close to his heart. "We embarked on this adventure together," he told the club representatives. "It has not been easy but I have been able to count on your unreserved support from the outset. Thank you for that.
"Today I would like to mention two things on this subject. Those who thought UEFA would not have the courage to assume its responsibilities were mistaken. The sanctions that have been imposed are proof of that. And those who thought the system would not work were also wrong.
"Following the introduction of financial fair play, the losses recorded by European professional clubs fell from €1.7bn to €800m in the space of two seasons. In other words, losses were cut by more than 50% in two years.
"That proves that we are on the right track and that we are moving from a vicious circle to a virtuous one in terms of the management models of most European clubs. This was the original objective. To save the very real global heritage that European football clubs represent, we must continue along this path with strength and conviction. This does not mean that everything is perfect and that we should rest on our laurels.
"The framework for financial fair play must be dynamic," Mr Platini continued. "It must evolve constantly, which is why I have convened an important round table on the subject with your representatives at UEFA headquarters on 13 October. We will see whether any imperfections can be ironed out and whether there is room to further improve the system. Dialogue and trust are the keys to success."
The UEFA President turned to the issue of third-party ownership of players, and insisted that swift action was necessary in this area. "I know this is a controversial issue," he said, "and that some clubs have, unfortunately, got into the bad habit of indulging in these practices and cooperating with investors that are characterised, more than anything, by their lack of transparency. But let us take the time to reflect. We must come back to our senses on this.
"Do we really want to relinquish control of our clubs and allow even more money to disappear from our sport? It is a headlong spiral which, in the medium or long term, will prove disastrous for football and especially for you, the clubs. Those who refuse to admit it are fooling themselves. The integrity issues raised by these practices should not be underestimated either. They constitute a real threat to our sport, to the players and to our image.
"At the end of the day, do you not also think that transfer fees have increased as a result of this phenomenon? As UEFA President, this scourge worries me deeply and we must take firm steps to ensure that players 'belong' to clubs and to nobody else. I am counting on your support with this."
Mr Platini expressed the view that the transfer system as a whole needed to be closely analysed and improved – "so that, in future, we can avoid the abuses that we are currently seeing".
"We must also ensure that the ever-increasing revenue flowing into our sport is fairly redistributed," he said, "and used to develop all parts of football throughout Europe, from amateur and youth football to the professional game. Solidarity is an essential value of our sport. We must not forget this. Our sport must also remain a vehicle of tolerance for society in general."
Mr Platini stressed the crucial nature of the relationship between UEFA and the ECA. "Ever since I became UEFA President in 2007, close cooperation between the clubs and UEFA has been a constant priority for me," he reflected. "We have come a long way together since then. Dialogue, consultation and cooperation have enabled us to make enormous progress in a variety of fields. These developments are far from trivial. They are in fact significant, and proof that European football is in good health and continuing to progress."
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