Protecting football and acting out of passion and love for the game are principles that UEFA President Michel Platini feels should guide the European body and football family to ensure football's good health.
In his address to the XXXV Ordinary UEFA Congress in Paris on Tuesday, Mr Platini highlighted the achievements since his election in 2007, and issued a call for the football community to help shape the game's future in a positive manner.
Mr Platini spoke of commitments and pledges that he had made four years ago, and which had been achieved. For example, the UEFA Executive Committee's responsibilities had been expanded, committees had returned to the centre of UEFA's activities, and the 53 national associations had grown in influence and status.
The KISS programme and Study Group Scheme had reinforced exchanges between associations and despite the economic crisis, solidarity payments to the associations had increased, in particular under the HatTrick assistance scheme.
Turning to the competitions, Mr Platini reminded the Congress that 24 teams would compete at UEFA EURO 2016, reforms to the UEFA Champions League access list meant more associations and champions represented in the group phase, and the UEFA Europa League had been born. "Thanks to these reforms, the universality of the competitions had been preserved and even reinforced," he said.
The unity of the football families had been re-established, through dialogue between UEFA, associations, leagues, clubs and players – "with football's greater interest in mind" – and relations with FIFA were excellent.
Football's social role had been reinforced with the launching of the Respect campaign and the development of UEFA's social responsibility portfolio. "We have taken reforms to fight racism in the stadiums and we have intensified our fight against doping. We decided to attack the complex problem of corruption linked to betting in football ... and adopted a zero tolerance policy towards players, referees and officials," Mr Platini reflected.
"We have intensified and improved our relations with the European institutions ... and finally, together, we have launched the great financial fair play project which must protect club football." The project, Mr Platini said, should safeguard against the disappearance of major clubs through hazardous financial management.
Turning to the future, Mr Platini welcomed the status of the UEFA Champions League at club level – and also stressed that a major challenge rested in promoting the national team competitions. "It is our duty to bring them back to the place they deserve," he said. Consultation was key, the UEFA President said, in moves designed to refresh the worth of national team football.
On financial fair play, Mr Platini reminded delegates that in 2009, European professional clubs had amassed net losses of €1.2bn. "Indeed, there is an enormous amount of money in football, but there is in particular an ethical problem as regards the way in which this money is sometimes managed and used.
Financial fair play is this essential project which will enable us to moralise certain practices in our sport." Mr Platini promised courage and firmness in applying UEFA's financial fair play provisions.
On the subject of violence and betting fraud, the UEFA president urged public and political authorities to help UEFA. "With the best will in the world, we will never be able to eradicate [these elements] by ourselves. That is why today we are launching an appeal to heads of state and governments, and to those responsible within European institutions ... Sirs, please take the measures that are necessary."
Mr Platini explained that UEFA was working with FIFA on a project aimed at promoting the training of young players and protecting teams' identities. The importance and influence of women in football was also a priority.
"The refreshing of the value of national team football, the definitive implementation of financial fair play measures, the fight against violence and betting fraud and the end of institutional discrimination will be core actions in the four years to come," the UEFA President said.
Mr Platini called on the football family to make a telling contribution to football's well-being. "Everything is possible – the important thing is to keep faith, and to keep our passion for this game intact, because it is only a game – while acting at the same time out of a concern for transparency, responsibility, openness, excellence and unity. It is in this way that we will achieve a football that is more moral, more just and more human.
"We have a notable duty to think of the next generation – the football that we want to leave to our children and grandchildren," Mr Platini concluded. "Let us continue to have the courage to take the necessary decisions to protect football as we love it. We are the guarantors of this football and the guardians of an ideal – we should be proud – and I am certainly proud in any case."
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