UEFA's new club licensing system comes into force at the start of next season - and preparations are continuing apace for an ambitious system designed with football's future well-being in mind.
Series of workshops
The preparation period has taken a further step forward in recent weeks with a series of workshops in Geneva aimed at helping UEFA's member associations implement the new system, giving the associations the chance to discuss the assessment process with UEFA and allowing experienced licensors to pass on valuable feedback to other associations on how to efficiently verify the minimum criteria at club level.
Discussions and practical work
At one such workshop, 15 of UEFA's 52 national associations gathered for three days of discussions and practical work. The workshops have been essential, because the associations will be the official licensors under the new system. UEFA itself will ensure, through spot-checks, that the system is correctly applied within the European football family, while also taking into account the UEFA-approved exceptions for national associations and the accredited national club licensing manuals that each country is submitting to UEFA.
UEFA hopes the club licensing system will have widespread benefits, prompting clubs to improve their quality levels in five different categories: sporting; infrastructure; personnel and administrative; legal; and financial. Under the system, every club qualifying for European club competition on a sporting basis from 2004/05 will have to hold a licence in order to be admitted to UEFA's club competitions. An individual approach will only be applied for clubs which are not subject to a club licensing system at national level, but which nevertheless qualify for Europe, such as domestic cup-winners from a lower league.
"We must prepare ourselves thoroughly," Marcel Benz, UEFA's club licensing project leader, told the associations at the workshop. "We have to share experiences between each other to ensure that each licensor introduces the licensing system as efficiently as possible right from the beginning, in order to achieve the objectives and benefit from the system."
Consequently, the workshop allowed the associations the opportunity to compare plans, identify areas of difficulty, seek overall consistency in the approach to decision-taking under the new system and request guidance not only from UEFA, but also from experienced licensing experts. Such dialogue is helping inexperienced associations deal with worries such as respecting deadlines, lack of administrative support for the system, or potential loopholes which could lead to future headaches. In return, UEFA is digesting the views of the associations in view of any eventual fine-tuning of the system after its initial assessment process next spring.
The delegates visited two stadiums in Geneva – including the new 30,000-seater Stade de Genève – to undertake a real infrastructure check. "We all have to go away from the workshops with a broadly similar understanding of how things should be verified, so that the system is applied consistently from country to country," said Ian Mann from PricewaterhouseCoopers, UEFA's external partner company in the project.
"The associations should be able to go back and inform their members of the licensing administration, including the decision-making bodies, as well as the clubs, of what is expected of them." If the application is as thorough as the preparation, the club licensing system will certainly help build a better future for football - raising standards and strengthening the game's fabric in the years to come.
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