In the second part of his interview with uefa.com, UEFA General Secretary David Taylor discusses his hopes for UEFA EURO 2008™, problems facing the game and the need to recognise the good work done by referees.
uefa.com: Despite going very close, your country Scotland unfortunately failed to qualify for UEFA EURO 2008™? What are your expectations for the final round?
David Taylor: It will be a terrific tournament. We had a presentation at the XXXII Ordinary UEFA Congress in Zagreb in terms of the cities, in terms of where we are with the planning for the event, and I think we are going to have a spectacular event. I think one of the big issues will be the demand for tickets. There's huge interest in this, and in some ways because Scotland haven't qualified, there might be a little less pressure on me, but of course I would have loved Scotland to have qualified. But we're going to have some really good teams, we're going to have a huge demand for tickets, and I just hope the quality of football on the field lives up to the expectations. 'Expect Emotions' is the slogan for the tournament and if we get emotions generated through football, then it will be spectacular indeed.
uefa.com: The European Championship is considered by many as equal, if not of a higher level than the FIFA World Cup from a pure footballing point of view. But if you look at the results, in 1992 Denmark won as the great outsiders, in 1996 we had the Czech Republic reaching the final, which was not expected either, and in 2004 we had another outsider winning it in Greece. In modern football, can outsiders win a tournament like that?
David Taylor: I think you have just shown they can. What I remember about the 2004 final is the fantastic support the Greek football team had in the stadium. The supporters of Greece that day were singing and chanting from beginning to end, and it was tremendous the support they gave their team. Now maybe there's something there for these countries when they're not maybe the favourites for the tournament. If the supporters really get behind their team, the whole nation gets behind the team, it's remarkable what can be achieved. Now we have some of the strongest teams perhaps linked into one group in the EURO tournament, so maybe there's an opportunity there for the less-fancied teams to come through which always makes the tournament interesting in my book.
uefa.com: Racism, violence and xenophobia are three ills within the world of football unfortunately. UEFA is taking very strong action against racists and hooligans in football stadiums, but what more will UEFA do in the near future?
David Taylor: They are problems of society, not just football, I want to make that absolutely clear. Unfortunately, we have seen some manifestations within football stadiums, and UEFA have been very strong in terms of their messages, in terms of the actions they are taking, in terms of sanctioning activities which breach fundamental human rights. And we've seen situations where in terms of hooliganism last year, a club was ejected from one of our major competitions. Now we will not hesitate to take such action if the circumstances require, but each case must be treated on its merits. There are greater difficulties, of course, with incidents which happen outside football stadiums further away from football grounds. This is where the police and civic authorities must work with football to deal with these matters. They are not primarily the responsibility of football, it's a societal problem. UEFA will deal with matters within our capability and within our regulatory powers, but we must work with the civic authorities to have a stronger joint action against these things which have negative influences on our sport.
uefa.com: There are other negative influences affecting football such as alleged corruption or illegal betting. What sort of influences are these and how does UEFA approach this problem?
David Taylor: I have to say there are a lot more positive influences in football than negative influences, so let's not get this out of proportion. The football we have seen in our UEFA Champions League and top competitions is great, and offers so much to society and so much pleasure to so many millions of people. Of course we need to guard against any negative influences. In the last few months we have been working more closely with early warning systems in terms of specialised forms of betting, unusual betting patterns which have been made known to us and principally for minor matches in the early stages of our tournaments, so we have sophisticated systems in place. There is only one case currently before the Control and Disciplinary Body, so lets not get this out of perspective. Having said that, there is a potential danger here so it is up to UEFA to put systems in place to work again, and I emphasise this, with Europol and the civic authorities to deal with any of these threats, because UEFA is not a European police force. We don't have the resources or the expertise, so we must work with the authorities throughout Europe when we're confronting these problems which have a negative influence on our game.
uefa.com: This year will also be important for the refereeing movement, especially with UEFA EURO 2008™ just ahead. What is UEFA doing to help nurture tomorrow's referees and what help is it giving to national associations?
David Taylor: Referees are an essential part of football whether we like it or not, and of course I like it because many of my friends are referees, and it's a very important role they perform. UEFA recognises that, we give them as much support as we can directly ourselves and through national football associations. For the EURO tournaments we select the best referees, we provide them with the best facilities during the tournament but, before that of course, we have specific fitness tests and we have a gathering for the referees prior to the tournament, these are important things. On the wider front, and again this is a matter for national associations, it's a subsidiarity issue, the national football associations are responsible for the recruitment and training of referees, but UEFA has recently introduced a Referees' Convention. Now we have an initial group of ten and a further group of three countries who have joined the Referees' Convention, but you can only join if you can reach certain standards. UEFA have set these standards and if these standards are met, additional financial support is given by UEFA to the countries concerned, in order that there is clear recognition, financial recognition, of the good work they are doing.
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