UEFA Chief Executive Gerhard Aigner has described the UEFA European Championship as a vital factor in promoting football in Europe.
In his editorial column in the latest edition of the UEFA Flash publication, Mr Aigner – looking ahead to next Friday’s EURO 2004™ qualifying competition draw in Portugal – said that Europe’s blue-riband competition for national teams played a key role in UEFA’s mission to nurture the game on this continent. “Club football and national team competitions are the centres of interest around which UEFA’s activity revolves,” he said.
The UEFA CEO said that the European Championship was “a competition which has gone from strength to strength over the years, to the point of becoming one of the major events in the international sports calendar”.
16-team final round
Until 1980, the European Championship final round involved only four teams, but was then expanded to eight teams. The field was increased to 16 teams for the first time for the final round in England in 1996.
“This development reflects both the extraordinary popularity of football and the significant increase in the number of UEFA member associations,” said Mr Aigner. “There are now 51 of them, all keen to embark on this new campaign which will engross the supporters of all the teams in the next two years and give each of them new incentive and fresh hopes.”
UEFA’s mission, said Mr Aigner, was to strive to promote football throughout Europe. “As shown clearly by the success of EURO 2000™ in Belgium and the Netherlands, the European Championship constitutes the best instrument for achieving that mission.”
“There is no doubt that the fervour that will reign after the draw in Oporto will gain in intensity until it reaches fever pitch with the final round in June 2004,” he added.
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