The continued development of club licensing across European football, including financial fair play measures, was on the agenda at UEFA's annual Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play workshop in Portugal.
Delegations from all of UEFA's 54 member national associations travelled to Cascais for a comprehensive review of the latest developments in club licensing, as well as a look at the future, as the drive to bring financial stability to the European club game continues to gain impetus as a result of the financial fair play policies introduced by the continental governing body.
The president of the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF), Fernando Gomes, welcomed the 120 participants and expressed the view that both the expansion of domestic club licensing and the recently published club financial figures were signs that football finances are moving in the right direction, thanks to a common effort.
"In the last three years, UEFA has built success with its financial fair play regulations," he told the workshop. "The clubs have made efforts that will give them more sustainability and rationality in their finances. It is time to work together and to achieve the objective of a sustainable environment for clubs and European football.
"In the stadiums, we feel the economic and financial crisis that we are living in Europe, and the solution to solve the problem is rigorous financial self-regulation," he added. "Club licensing and financial fair play is not as easy as scoring a goal, but is essential to the sustainability of football."
Other speakers on the first day included the chairman of the UEFA Club Financial Control Body (CFCB), José Cunha Rodrigues, who welcomed financial fair play for its "defined principles of financing", and spoke of the necessity to preserve and further develop the administration of sports justice in the area of club licensing and financial control. The CFCB is a UEFA Organ for the Administration of Justice. It is also competent to impose disciplinary measures in the case of non-fulfilment of club licensing requirements, and to decide on cases relating to clubs' eligibility for UEFA competitions.
Interaction and dialogue were central to the workshop's success. Practical real-life cases covering specific licensing issues were presented during the second day of the conference by the delegations from the Netherlands, Switzerland and Wales, followed by question and answer sessions involving the associations' licensing delegations. The licensing activities and football environment in the host country Portugal were also presented in some detail.
The latest developments and advances regarding supporter liaison officers (SLOs) were discussed, with considerable progress being made across club football. Under Article 35 of UEFA's Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations, clubs throughout Europe have been required to appoint a supporter liaison officer to ensure proper dialogue with their fans – stressing the importance that UEFA attaches to dialogue and communication between clubs and fans.
The topic of disabled supporters was also debated. UEFA is working together with CAFE (Centre for Access to Football in Europe) to make sure that as many disabled supporters as possible can attend matches, and the matter is an item under consideration for inclusion within future licensing regulations.
The sessions on the third and final day focused principally on technical areas relating to break-even submissions – in particular, the assessment of fair value – and an interactive presentation on the latest benchmarking report 'Licensed to thrill' which highlights trends across clubs' featuring in UEFA competitions.
Last but not least, Umberto Lago, a member of the investigatory chamber of the Club Financial Control Body, provided a summary of the activities of the investigatory chamber over the last two years, underlining that this chamber is now meeting on at least a monthly basis. The session, greatly appreciated by all participants, offered an illuminating insight into the guiding principles and approach of the investigatory chamber, with Mr Lago pointing out that they "work in a cooperative spirit to guide clubs to financial health, where possible trying to solve problems before sending the club dossiers to the CFCB adjudicatory chamber when alleged breaches of the regulations are detected."
The conference concluded with the head of the UEFA club licensing and financial fair play unit, Andrea Traverso, emphasising the unique long-term strategic nature of club licensing and financial fair play and the vast wealth of experience built up both at UEFA and around the 54 national club licensing networks over the first decade.
This reservoir of experience was in evidence throughout the workshop and special recognition was given to the more than 30 participants who have been ever-present on the project since its launch a decade ago. The pause for reflection was merited with the project continuing to evolve apace, including the first assessment in the next 12 months of the break-even rule requirements within financial fair play. It promises to be another busy year.
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