UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino said that the voice of football supporters must continue to be heard as he assured European fan groups that they still had a part to play in shaping the sport's future.
Mr Infantino was speaking on the second day of the European Football Fans' Congress of Football Supporters Europe (FSE) at the Amsterdam ArenA on Saturday, and he took the opportunity to underline the importance of UEFA's ongoing dialogue with fans.
"While players, coaches and even owners change with increasing frequency, supporters remain loyal to the colours they proudly wear," he said. "And because fans are the reason football exists at all, your voice has to be heard and fans have to help shape football's future. UEFA is proud to have established a dialogue with your representatives that allows us to share with you our thoughts and proposals but also lets us pick your brains, get your ideas, answer your complaints and evaluate your suggestions."
He also argued that "the increasing financial interests of the game" need not work against supporters' wishes, stressing that "without the continued loyalty of football fans worldwide – and especially here in Europe – there would be no sponsors, no television companies and no money men queuing up to be associated with the game."
Mr Infantino addressed several topics up for debate at the congress, including fan ownership. On this question he suggested that "supporters investing in a club can only be good for the game". Explaining his backing for such models, he added: "At a time when the global crisis and the lack of financial discipline are threatening the very survival of many football clubs, supporter involvement offers a credible, sustainable alternative to the current model of club ownership and governance."
Another item on the agenda was safety and security, and Mr Infantino talked of the need to get the balance right with "more trained stewards and less police". Pointing to UEFA's own safety instructions for its club competitions, he said: "
UEFA firmly believes we can ensure safety without stigmatising innocent fans through heavy-handed policing or travel restrictions that infringe on the freedom of fans and fail to see fans as people in their own right."
Achieving a happy medium when it comes to ticket pricing is another area of concern. Mr Infantino noted: "UEFA shares fans concerns that increased ticket prices in the current economic climate are making attending matches unaffordable for many, particularly families. We are striving to find the right balance between providing a legitimate return for the clubs and a fair and affordable price to supporters."
To this end, he cited UEFA's move to guarantee at least some cheaper tickets for UEFA Champions League matches. "Following consultation with the FSE, we have introduced a new more affordable category of ticket for the UEFA Champions League, with over 20% of tickets available in this price category," he said.
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