UEFA EURO 2012 in Poland and Ukraine proved to be a glittering highlight in a hectic year of UEFA activity, UEFA President Michel Platini and the UEFA Executive Committee said in their report to the XXXVII Ordinary UEFA Congress in London on Friday.
The report said that the European body had continued to fulfil its mission to provide a sound foundation for European football, while striving to rid the game of negative phenomena such as racism, match-fixing and violence in the stadiums. "The Executive Committee," it said, "was able to work in a spirit of continuity and unity, guided at all times by the 11 key values approved by the 2009 UEFA Congress in Copenhagen.
"UEFA EURO 2012 on its own symbolises several of these values," the report continued. "It particularly reminded us that football is, first and foremost, a sport, and that its major tournaments are above all true celebrations. It also proved that, although supporters have different interests, they all share the same passion for the game and are able to respect each other. UEFA EURO 2012 also showcased players who, despite wanting to win, still adopted an exemplary attitude of fair play and attacking styles of play as encouraged by their coaches.
"The tournament in Poland and Ukraine also provided a clear indication of how our continent is evolving," the report stated. "New countries are now perfectly capable of organising large-scale events; stadiums are being built in every part of Europe, while others are being renovated and now provide spectators with improved safety and comfort. The transformation of the UEFA Super Cup into an itinerant competition from 2013 will give other member associations the chance to stage major UEFA events."
UEFA EURO 2012 had further boosted national team football. "UEFA's efforts to strengthen this aspect of the game will continue," the report emphasised, "particularly through the introduction of 'weeks of football' for national teams – with matches from Thursday to Tuesday – and the centralised sale of media rights for European national team qualifying matches, starting with the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifiers.
"The standard of play is also very high and has improved in all the national associations (...) there is no reason to fear a drop in quality when the EURO is expanded to 24 teams for the next final round in France in 2016. On the contrary, this expansion will help to spread the reputation of the flagship competition for European national teams even further."
The report said that the 2011/12 season also reinforced dialogue governing European football and relations between its constituent parts. "The Ordinary Congress in Istanbul in March 2012, for example, demonstrated the unity of European football, with all its stakeholders signing memorandums of understanding." Such dialogue, allied to UEFA's crucial support through the HatTrick assistance programme, had also been the focal point of the strong link between UEFA and its member national associations. "The strategy meeting of presidents and general secretaries held in Cyprus in September 2011 had a major influence on subsequent decisions relating to UEFA competitions," the report stated.
Under the HatTrick scheme during the 2012–16 period, the report said, each association would be entitled to €3m for investment projects related to grassroots football or social activities. In addition, an annual contribution of up to €1.625m would be available to every association, paid in the form of a €600,000 solidarity payment to contribute to general running costs, and a €1.025m incentive payment for participating in UEFA's youth, women's and futsal competitions, improving association governance, and applying and implementing the club licensing system, as well as participation in UEFA's charters and conventions on grassroots football, coach education and referee education and organisation.
UEFA had also striven to establish a solid base for European football, by introducing financial fair play criteria for clubs wishing to take part in UEFA competitions, and fighting against, among other things, corruption and match-fixing, racism and discrimination. "Corruption linked to match-fixing poses a real danger to football," the report said, "but the game's governing bodies cannot eradicate this scourge without the help of the public authorities. The fight against violence also requires close collaboration with the public authorities."
Nurturing women's football had also paid dividends – at least one member of the Executive Committee must now be female, in accordance with the UEFA Statutes – and the UEFA women's football development programme (WFDP) would furnish national associations with around €21.2m in HatTrick funding between 2012 and 2016. Meanwhile, the Executive Committee approved a two-year trial for a club youth Under-19 competition, and set up a working group on cross-border leagues and competitions. While emphasising the principle of nationality, the committee authorised a three-year pilot project for a women's league involving teams from Belgium and the Netherlands.
Turning to financial fair play measures introduced to help safeguard European club football's stability, and which had gained widespread backing from football stakeholders and the European authorities, the report said: "In a period of widespread economic turmoil, football continues to excite the crowds and attract investors. Unfortunately, however, this does not mean that its financial health is always guaranteed, particularly where the clubs are concerned. Although income has continued to rise, expenditure has increased even more, with salaries and transfers swallowing up most of the revenue and, in the worst cases, exceeding it.
"The financial fair play measures will be fully applied from the start of the 2014/15 season, and UEFA and its President have repeatedly expressed their firm intention to apply any disciplinary measures strictly and without exception, including those under which clubs may be excluded from the UEFA competitions."
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