Immediately after meeting the 53 UEFA member national associations in Athens, UEFA president Michel Platini was in Brussels on Tuesday with UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino and Julien Zylberstein, UEFA's EU affairs adviser, to meet with the vice-president of the European Commission responsible for competition, Joaquín Almunia; the EU commissioner for employment, social affairs and social inclusion, László Andor; and the sports minister of the Flemish government, Philippe Muyters.
The talks, which form part of UEFA's ongoing fruitful dialogue with the EU political institutions, gave Mr Platini the chance to put forward a number of key issues affecting European football. The meetings came at an opportune moment, given that the European Commission communication on sport in the Lisbon Treaty is planned for publication in the coming months.
Discussions with commissioner Andor centred on potential measures to protect young footballers. UEFA is concerned at the fate of many young players who leave their home countries to join a club in return for payment, but who are then left with no schooling to fall back on if they do not make it. UEFA is also strongly advocating stable education paths for young athletes. Locally trained players and sport's social role were also topics of conversation.
Talks with Mr Almunia at the European Commission headquarters addressed in particular broadcasting rights and UEFA's financial fair play concept which has been launched recently for the overall well-being of the European game and is spearheaded by former Belgian prime minister and current member of the European Parliament, Jean-Luc Dehaene.
The measures, which are being introduced over a three-year period until 2013, aim to introduce more discipline and rationality in club football finances, decrease pressure on salaries and transfer fees, and limit inflationary effect; encourage clubs to compete with(in) their revenues, promote long-term investments in the youth sector and infrastructure, protect the long-term viability of European club football, and ensure that clubs settle their liabilities on a timely basis.
"This is a crucial time for European sport," said Mr Platini, "and I was very pleased to be invited to Brussels today to discuss key issues affecting sport and football.
"I was especially happy to find so much common ground on financial fair play, the protection of minors and the specificity of sport," he added. "All the meetings were very productive and encouraging for excellent future cooperation in concrete terms. It was also nice to find fellow football fans at the European Commission!"
Belgium currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, and the visit to the Belgian capital provided the ideal moment for a meeting between Mr Platini and Philippe Muyters. The president of the Royal Belgian Football Association (URBSFA-KBVB), François De Keersmaecker, also attended the meeting.
The importance of the dialogue between the European Union and European sports federations was stressed during the talks. Mr Platini expressed his gratitude to Mr Muyters for the Belgian EU presidency's focus on sporting matters.
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