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UEFA continues to lay the foundations of its work on the pledge that football comes first. This is reflected in the report of the UEFA president and UEFA Executive Committee for the 2008/09 period, which was approved by delegates at the XXXIV Ordinary UEFA Congress in Tel Aviv on Thursday.
The report, submitted to representatives of UEFA's 53 member national associations, also stresses the importance of the dialogue that UEFA has pursued with the various stakeholders within the European football family to find solutions to key issues within the continental game.
Various new members have joined the Executive Committee in the period under question. "In its numerous and wide-ranging fields of activity," the report says, "from the organisation of competitions to their marketing, from political affairs to development aid, and from links within the football family to relations with its partners, the new team in charge of European football has smoothly continued the work previously set in motion – starting with the adoption of the priorities proposed by the president, Michel Platini, and his 11 guiding values, which reaffirm the fact that football comes first and must guide UEFA in all it does."
The 11 values form the basis for UEFA's activities and dialogue on behalf of European football, and range from financial fair play, regularity of competitions and promotion of grassroots football to protection of youth players, respect and ensuring the crucial balance between national-team and club football.
The Executive Committee welcomed the success of UEFA's competitions over the period under review, in particular, the UEFA Champions League final in Rome which, the report said, "had an exceptional impact and gave an extremely positive image of European football, not only to supporters but also to the political world".
The 2010 final of UEFA's blue-riband competition will be the first to be played on a Saturday. "Moving the final from Wednesday to Saturday evening from 2010 onwards," the report stresses, "will enable UEFA to raise its profile even further by holding a series of events in the week leading up to the final, resulting in a true festival of football."
The committee also considered the work undertaken behind the scenes "to improve football's position in society and rid the game of the excesses that tarnish its image, whether violence, financial crisis, match-fixing or the international transfer of minors. In the face of such problems, the Executive Committee has always chosen dialogue as its preferred means of progress."
In this respect, the committee recognised the value of the UEFA Professional Football Strategy Council (PFSC). "This forum, which brings together the interests of the national associations, leagues, clubs and players, creates a climate of mutual understanding in which to address all the key issues of professional football and seek solutions that best reflect the interests of all concerned."
The desire for dialogue has also had a positive effect upon the vital relationship between UEFA, as the umbrella body for European football, and its national associations, with the various meetings and visits providing the opportunity for direct contact and exchange of ideas and information. The introduction of the HatTrick II assistance programme for national associations is a further step in helping the associations develop infrastructures and improve governance.
The Executive Committee report also sets out a list of priorities that occupy the committee's thoughts. The preparations for UEFA EURO 2012 in Poland and Ukraine, the protection of minors from international transfers that can have disastrous effects on a youngster, promotion of training and protection of training clubs, dialogue with the European political authorities and football supporters, and the fight against racism are all key priorities at present.
However, two other priorities stand out – first, financial fair play, a concept which the report says "is to improve financial transparency and equity in UEFA's competitions and the long-term stability of European club football" in the face of problems such as the inflation of transfer fees and player salaries.
A second major priority which the Executive Committee is addressing is the fight against match-fixing and corruption in the game. The establishing of a Betting Fraud Detection System (BFDS) and the bolstering of UEFA's disciplinary services with expert staff in criminal investigation means that some 29,000 matches a year in domestic leagues and cups are being monitored around the clock.
The UEFA Congress also approved UEFA's financial report for 2008/09.
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