Summer 2008 at UEFA will be dominated by matters on the field – the UEFA EURO 2008™ final round in Austria and Switzerland between 7 and 29 June takes a natural pride of place in the European body's catalogue of activities.
Eight venues are hosting this eagerly-awaited festival of football – Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, Salzburg and Vienna (Austria) and Basel, Berne, Geneva and Zurich (Switzerland), and the final phase of preparations is under way following December's tournament draw in Lucerne.
"Expect Emotions" is the tournament motto – and the feeling is now very tangible as the tournament organisers make the closing arrangements to welcome the 16 teams and their supporters. Hotels have been organised and the party of referees are looking forward to being the 17th team at the competition – everything is looking in shape for a spectacular summer of EURO action.
One of the 16 EURO participants, Croatia, and more specifically its capital Zagreb, will play host to Europe's football administrators and politicians at the end of January. The 53 UEFA member associations will convene at the XXXII Ordinary UEFA Congress to discuss and vote on various items which are important to European football at an event that has become an annual gathering, owing to the increasing amount of activities on UEFA's daily agenda.
Dialogue with stakeholders
UEFA's mission to promote dialogue with European football stakeholders will continue to gather pace in 2008. Discussions within the new Professional Football Strategy Council – comprising UEFA vice-presidents and representatives of the European leagues, clubs and players' union FIFPro – have already born impressive fruit, while UEFA's care for its member associations will manifest itself in particular through the essential assistance given as part of the ambitious UEFA HatTrick project.
Social responsibility continues to be a key byword at UEFA. The fight against racism in football goes on unabated thanks to UEFA's partnership with the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network. An action plan to target violence in sport is in the pipeline following an agreement in November between UEFA President Michel Platini and European Commission vice-president Franco Frattini, and a European training plan for stewards and operational police officers is being prepared as part of the agreement.
Humanitarian causes are never far from UEFA's thoughts the EURO final round will be notable for a continuation of the long-standing partnership between UEFA and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The focus at the tournament in Austria and Switzerland will be on supporting the victims of landmines in Afghanistan. The partnership's core enterprise for UEFA EURO 2008™ is a fundraising campaign – Score for the Red Cross – that will enable football fans to buy virtual goals for their teams online. UEFA will also make a contribution by transferring €4,000 (CHF6,700) to the ICRC for each goal scored at UEFA EURO 2008™. Elsewhere, consolidated partnerships with old partners and a number of new ones, across a broad palette of social areas, serve to emphasise UEFA's belief that football should be used beyond the stadiums as a force to help society's well-being.
The anti-doping campaign has been given fresh impetus in recent years as UEFA has stepped up its drive in this sector – targeting young footballers in particular. In and out-of-competition tests are on the rise this season as a result of the EURO qualifiers and final round, and blood tests will be conducted in – and out-of-competition for UEFA EURO 2008™ – the first time ever in a major football competition. Heart screening will also be undertaken as a precaution ahead of the tournament in the wake of recent tragic incidents.
Refereeing standards will be rising as more associations join the UEFA Referees' Convention – the club licensing scheme, introduced successfully four years ago, is set to go from strength to strength. Conferences and seminars organised by UEFA will, as always, prove invaluable in taking the European game forward. On and off the field, with the co-operation of its partners and fellow stakeholders, UEFA will continue its leading role in European football over the next 12 months.
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