UEFA Chief Executive Gerhard Aigner has underlined the importance of the UEFA club licensing system as the countdown to its launch gathers pace. Mr Aigner called on the 52 member associations to ensure they had all the necessary tools in place for the project designed to help "achieve a new balance of football finances in the future".
Aim to 'control costs'
UEFA plans to introduce the new system in time for the 2004/05 season, with the aim of providing a framework for clubs to run themselves more efficiently. "We should drive forward the licensing system to achieve what is essential, namely to control the operating costs of our activities," said Mr Aigner.
While all the associations have committed themselves to the project, Mr Aigner told delegates at the XXVII Ordinary UEFA Congress in Rome that not all of the associations were "in the time frame" necessary to proceed. "I must appeal to you to speed up the process," he said. "It is in the interest of the clubs to be in time and made aware of what they need to do to be licensed for the future."
Financial assistance available
UEFA will approve each association's national licensing manual in April and May after which Mr Aigner said, "national associations are bound to proceed to the assessment" of clubs, which starts in season 2003/04. UEFA has established a club licensing panel for developing the system and will provide technical assistance and financial assistance - for four years from 2004, associations will be able to claim up to €170,000 per year to help with implementing the system.
UEFA hopes the club licensing system will have widespread benefits, encouraging clubs to improve their infrastructure and administration, achieve greater financial transparency, and show a real commitment to the development of young players. Mr Aigner said that at a time when football was "facing diminishing income streams" it was "vital" that clubs controlled their economic means.
UEFA's club licensing manual, which was approved in April last year, contains five key criteria: sporting; infrastructure; personnel and administrative; legal; and financial. According to the provisions of the manual, every club qualifying for European club competition on a sporting basis from 2004/05 will have to hold a licence, and only in exceptional cases will clubs without a licence be allowed to enter UEFA club competitions.
'Equal treatment for all'
The responsibility for issuing licences will rest with the national associations and UEFA's intention is that the system will be adapted to national circumstances. However, the licensing standards will be controlled by a neutral party, the SGS agency, in order to "guarantee equal treatment for all", according to Mr Aigner.
The financial regulations will ensure, for example, that clubs cannot acquire a licence if they are behind in transfer payments to other clubs or payments to club employees. Although uniform accounting standards will not be required initially - the procedure will be based on local principles of accounting for the introduction of the system - additional financial criteria will be introduced later, during subsequent phases of development.
Clubs must fulfil requirements
Clubs will have to fulfil certain requirements as regards personnel: for instance, each should have in place a general manager, club secretariat and finance officer. There will also be measurable and quantifiable safety criteria for stadiums, while UEFA will also look for clubs to improve their youth and training policies.
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