Club licensing came to life this October as 150 licensing experts from across UEFA's 53 member associations met to discuss recent developments and real-life cases at the club licensing workshop in Geneva.
The tone of the meeting was set by the UEFA administration, as Theodore Theodoridis, director of the UEFA national associations division, shared some of his experiences and the challenges faced while serving on the board of the Hellenic Football Federation. "Difficult cases can arise everywhere, and only by frank exchanges on these difficult cases can lessons be learned."
In the first half of this year, the bar was raised across Europe as clubs were assessed under version 2.0 of the UEFA club licensing system for the first time. Sefton Perry, the club licensing benchmarking manager, provided some context to this switch. "In total, 51 clubs less than the previous year were granted licenses. The significantly upgraded financial criteria were responsible for 45 per cent of refusals. However, medical care, stadium, head and youth coach requirements were also particularly prominent. Nonetheless, the continuing wide reach of licensing is clearly demonstrated by the fact that 629 top-division clubs still applied for a licence."
Representatives from Bulgaria, Poland, Wales, Cyprus, Northern Ireland and Belgium presented different cases by video and in person, sharing their experiences and challenges with the other participants. Alberto Alvarez Garralon, first instance body chairman of the Spanish Football Association, commented: "It is very interesting to share with other participants around Europe and understand the philosophy of club licensing in order to tackle some of the practical issues in an appropriate manner."
The cases raised many issues, including the distinction between national and UEFA licences, pressure on decision-making bodies, pre-briefings for decision-making bodies, the three-years rule, extraordinary applications, the assessment of clubs' ability to continue operating and better co-operation between the licensing community. The frank exchange of opinions and thoughts on many issues, all linked to the desire to improve current standards, led to a stimulating meeting.
Andrea Traverso, head of UEFA's club licensing unit, presented to the delegates the recent transformation of the club licensing manual into regulations, recently approved by the UEFA Executive Committee. The main reasons for this were explained, such as improvements in clarity, the creation of a clearer and more robust legal basis for licensing and harmonisation with other UEFA regulations.
All in all, the nature of the workshop, with open discussion and sharing of potential solutions to the challenges faced, underlined the main strength of club licensing, namely the licensing network. Ivancica Sudac, licensing manager of the Croatian Football Federation, summed up: "It was a very interesting, useful and important workshop. It is crucial for all of us to exchange with our decision-making body members, because at the end of the process, they are the ones responsible for taking the right decision." By exchanging experiences gained throughout the licensing network from the licensing of over 3,000 clubs in the last five years, lessons continue to be learned.
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