Addressing delegates from 55 UEFA and other stakeholders at the 46th Ordinary UEFA Congress in Vienna on Wednesday, Aleksander Ceferin highlighted the encouraging successes achieved under difficult circumstances and an extraordinary time.
The UEFA president said he was fully convinced that football would continue to prove that “a different world is possible, a world of resilience and hope in which power, profit or cynicism do not dictate everything”.
The UEFA president spoke of the solidarity shown by the football community in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the threat of the so-called Premier League that emerged last year ahead of the UEFA conference in Montreux.
“I am proud to have had the opportunity to work alongside such great women and men over the past two years,” Shiffrin said.
“We were strong despite the adversity. Together we found the solutions we needed. If we are united, we are not defeated and the club also wins.”
Ceferin described the failure of the Premier League as “a shameless attempt by a few oligarchs and aristocrats to launch a project that would trample all the values of football and European society”.
Great results and creative decisions
The UEFA president noted that in 2020, UEFA has put its interests aside and postponed all its competitions to facilitate the completion of domestic European competitions. He highlighted UEFA’s creativity in changing the calendar and adapting competition formats in record time, and created the “Final Eight” in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League.
And he stressed that football won “because the European Football Association succeeded in organizing the European Nations Cup during an unprecedented health crisis in eleven countries; because it invested in the European Women’s Nations Cup five times more than it was in the previous session; because it decided to change the format of the League Women’s European Champions, centralization of rights and filling the stadiums with more than 90,000 spectators to witness a competition with amazing potential.”
The UEFA president also noted that despite the doubts, UEFA has boldly opened another club competition, the European Conference League: “a competition that makes us live and breathe the football we love and evokes the 80s.”
Strong financial management and willingness to help
Schwerin explained during the outbreak of the Corona virus, that UEFA not only respected all solidarity payments in an unprecedented economic crisis, but also paid payments to relieve pressure on struggling federations and clubs.
He went on to say that UEFA has formally pledged to increase federation solidarity funds for the next cycle, in particular through the HatTrick development programme, as well as payments to clubs, regardless of whether they qualify for European competitions.
Football has benefited “because UEFA manages its finances so tightly that it can reinvest more than 97% of its revenue in football and spend less than 3% on operating costs”.
Listen and defend the public interest
Schiffrin commended the “tireless” work underway to ensure that the UEFA EURO 2024 in Germany is a unique, accessible and sustainable European Championship based on humanity and solidarity, and expressed his gratitude for the close relations he maintains with the club. European Club Association: “A quiet period for club football is imminent in the next decade.”
On Financial Fair Play, Ceferin welcomed the support provided to UEFA by all stakeholders in European football for a comprehensive reform of the system, “in order to protect the long-term future of club football, stimulate investments and restore economic balance”.
The announcement of the UEFA club competition format and access list 2024/25 follows useful consultations with the European football community. “If UEFA listens to the majority of clubs, fans and coaches and permanently abolishes the concept of qualification for UEFA competitions on the basis of coefficients, then it is football that wins,” Schiffrin said.
“As a governing body with a duty and responsibility to defend the common interests, not the interests of the minority, along with the Egyptian Chefs Association and the Clubs, we have decided to remain true to our principles of sporting merit…and its purpose. Rather, it is a profit.”
The president also explained that UEFA had offered around 20,000 free tickets to some club competition finals “to reward the loyalty of fans”, while also offering a discount on 10,000 tickets for the Champions League final.
Shivrin also mentioned how the timely intervention of doctors saved the life of Danish player Christian Eriksen during the Euro 2020 match last June against Finland. “If UEFA adopts strict medical protocols that can save lives in the event of cardiac arrest, then football and life itself will win,” he said.
Football sponsorship around the world
Schiffrin welcomed the strategic alliance with CONMEBOL “to celebrate 50 years of friendship between European football and South America. It is not an alliance against anyone, but only for the benefit of football.”
UEFA has demonstrated its solidarity with other confederations through the UEFA Assist programme, the UEFA Academy and the UEFA Children’s Foundation, or simply by agreeing to reduce the percentage of European teams at the World Cup from 2026 onwards to improve the balance between the continents.
Returning to the failed Premier League plan, Schiffrin spoke of the great spirit of unity demonstrated by the European Union’s federations, clubs, leagues, players, coaches, fans, commercial and television partners, CIOs, political authorities and governments in “opposition to an arrogant and contemptible plan, devised by the few billionaires who do not imagine that, in Pitch as in life, you can lose against someone younger than you.”
He added that football also benefited by starting a discussion of its governance model with all partners and stakeholders, in particular through the Agreement on the Future of European Football launched in September last year.
Dealing with problems honestly
Shiffrin stressed that in addition to all the positive developments, it is also important to recognize the failures. He noted that “we still have many problems to solve in order to make our sport a greater model and source of inspiration than it is today.”
Violence in stadiums remains a major problem. “If a family goes to a game, they just want to have fun,” Shiffrin commented. “People should feel safe inside and outside the stadium, and not be in danger.”
The UEFA president said there was more work to be done to strengthen and integrate minorities into football at all levels. He stressed that “saying that there is no racism or discrimination in football is not the truth.” “These problems exist in football as in the rest of society: it is up to us to face them head on.”
“We must also take care of the players’ physical and mental health, and we must take the necessary measures to prevent their mistreatment on social media, and provide psychological support to help them deal with the pressures they are exposed to,” he added.
Evren was clear about the need to give everyone a chance in football, “so that the youngsters can keep playing against the big ones and, on occasion, beat them by surprising everyone. That is why football is such a great game.”
Football gives hope and can make a difference
Finally, Schiffrin said football leaders “must be very careful not to bite the hand that feeds them. If their demands go too far, they risk destroying the social convention that underpins our sport.”
“If football shows the possibility of a different world, a world of resilience and hope where power, profit or cynicism don’t dictate everything, then the whole community wins.”
He told members of the UEFA Executive Committee and the Federation delegates in Vienna: “If football can count on leaders like you, I know that our sport is in good hands. I hope that together we can do it. I hope that our football and football will be the winner.” For many years to come.”
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