UEFA President Michel Platini has praised German football as a shining example of how to forge lasting football success through hard work, diligent organisation and adherence to essential footballing values.
In an address on Thursday to the German Football Association (DFB) general assembly in Nuremberg, at which he was a guest, Mr Platini told delegates that he and UEFA derived inspiration from Germany's approach to many aspects of the game, its administration and its development.
The UEFA President thanked the DFB and its president Wolfgang Niersbach for the consistent quality of their work and the support he had received from them. "[Germany's] success," he told the assembly, "has nothing to do with miracles, but with the strict application of a coherent strategy and the courageous defence of football's traditional values. When others gave in to the lure of international finance, or signed dozens of star players from all over the world, it took a lot of tenacity and self-confidence to stick to your values.
"Yet the facts speak for themselves. While the whole of Europe is talking about training being in crisis, championships decided in advance, half-empty stadiums and clubs on the verge of bankruptcy, your football is a picture of rugged health."
Mr Platini said that Germany proved it was possible to have thriving grassroots football, a balanced championship, clubs that were competitive on the international stage and a top-drawer national team – which has qualified in style for the 2014 FIFA World Cup – at the same time.
"And you have reaped the benefits, with the last UEFA Champions League final showing, in dazzling fashion, that the German club ownership structure has done much more than stay the course." Two of the country's leading clubs, FC Bayern München and Borussia Dortmund, contested a thrilling final of European club football's blue-riband competition in London in May.
"Many in Europe – and even beyond – envy the infrastructures of German football," Mr Platini continued. "You provide good education and training. Your stadiums are modern, safe and comfortable, and reasonable ticket prices make them affordable, encouraging young people and families to attend games."
The UEFA President told the DFB assembly it was not by chance that UEFA's disciplinary bodies had, in recent years, had very little to do with regard to the behaviour of supporters in German stadiums. "But nor did this happen by chance," he emphasised. "Not so long ago, you yourselves had to sort out problems of hooliganism and extreme xenophobia.
"I also know that you are not immune to one of the most vicious evils of modern sport – match-fixing and betting fraud – and that your lower divisions and refereeing have both been affected. But there too, you have confronted the problem thanks to good cooperation between your police and judicial authorities and the world of sport. It is this model that I would like to see applied at European level."
Mr Platini reflected that UEFA had tried to take inspiration from German ideas to resolve certain recurrent problems, such as club debt and the inflation of transfer fees and salaries. "The effects of financial fair play are starting to be felt in terms of a reduction in club deficits and moderation in the overall amounts spent on transfers," he said. "I am not going to crow just yet, as we still have a long way to go, but I think I can already make out a faint light at the end of the tunnel.
"The whole football family must remain united beyond the natural differences of immediate interests," the UEFA President said. "And here again, you set an example with your quest for harmony in relations between clubs, leagues and the national association. I also try, at European level, to forget past conflicts of long ago and move forward with the help of club and league representatives who are also aware of the importance of unity."
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