UEFA President Michel Platini has stressed that football is the main beneficiary of recent accords which are returning harmony to the European game.
Peace, concord and serenity
Mr Platini was commenting after the XXXII Ordinary UEFA Congress in Zagreb, Croatia, where he spoke of the "peace, concord and serenity" restored to the football family – in particular, through the creation of the European Club Association and the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between UEFA and Europe's major clubs.
"I tried to convince people, and they were able to understand the message very well," the UEFA President said. "The clubs are very happy to have joined up in the European Club Association, there are no winners or losers – the only winner is football, and that is what interests me most."
Protect the game
In his speech at the Zagreb Congress, Mr Platini underlined his commitment to bringing the football family together after recent years of strife, with the aim being to protect the game. "It was high time to stop the family quarrels, to stop tearing each other apart and making out that we could not understand each other," he explained to delegates from UEFA's 53 member associations.
Proposals for an increase in the number of UEFA European Championship final-round participants were also on the agenda at the conference. Alternatives are being examined after a study was commissioned at last year's XXXI Ordinary UEFA Congress in Dusseldorf. The studies, said Mr Platini, will continue.
"An interim report was presented [at Congress], and there are several proposals. Nothing has been decided yet, and we will be contacting all of the national associations because it is a complicated matter," the UEFA President explained, saying a decision could be ready by the end of the year on whether to maintain the current 16-team format, increase to 24 teams or perhaps even choose a 20-team option.
"EURO generates significant revenue which UEFA uses to invest in the work of its national associations," said UEFA General Secretary David Taylor. "We have a successful format, but there are options to consider expanding the format. It's a major decision, so we need to take our time and get [the decision] right."
A status report was given to Congress on the HatTrick assistance programme run by UEFA to help its member associations. "[The programme] is absolutely crucial, there is money available for investment projects, money has been made available for mini-pitches, and there's also an educational part as well as direct allocations to the associations," Mr Taylor said. The 2004-08 cycle for the programme is reaching an end this summer, and the scheme will be continued until 2012, with associations benefiting further from revenue generated by the UEFA EURO 2008™ final round.
World body FIFA's President Joseph S Blatter described 2008 as "the year of consolidation of a new era within UEFA, and the start of a new era within international football". The last year, he said, had been marked by "excellent co-operation between FIFA and UEFA, which is so necessary for the well-being of world football."
Speaking in particular about the recent club-related developments, Mr Blatter told the Congress: "This will enable us to eliminate differences within the [football] family in the future. I wish to praise the clubs for having understood the sense of joining an official organisation recognised by UEFA."
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