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The European Commission communication on sport, issued last week, has been welcomed positively by UEFA. It underlines the purpose that is behind the ongoing dialogue between European football's governing body and the European political authorities – and emphasises the strength and necessity of many of UEFA's core values.
The European Commission has given its support to many of UEFA's key policies, including financial fair play measures, the campaign against illegal betting and match-fixing, and important elements of the European sports model. UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino gave his reaction to UEFA.com.
"The overall feeling is certainly positive," he said. "And it's positive because we really see that the commission, in its communication, underlines the real aspect of specificity of sport, which we were discussing for quite some years.
"We are very happy also because the European Commission endorses the financial fair play rules, which are very important for the future of European club football. The European Commission also recognises the need to combat sporting fraud, illegal betting, match-fixing ... which go into the soul of football. And also the European Commission endorses very clearly the central marketing of media rights, which is an important achievement in terms of European legislation and sport."
Over the last few years, UEFA has nurtured a close relationship with the European Union. The EU is a legal and political reality, and as such has increasing influence not only on UEFA, but also on its 53 member national associations. In its dialogue with EU authorities, UEFA has aimed in particular to reinforce the notion of specificity of sport and build on the structures of the European sports model. Issues such as the protection of minors, financial fair play, sports betting and broadcasting are all pressing questions which have been subject to discussion at EU level.
The support given to the European sports model by the European Commission is regarded as being crucial, as the model is the solid foundation on which European football is built. "We are very pleased, because the European sports model is part of our culture," said Mr Infantino. "The endorsement ... of some of the key pillars such as the promotion and relegation principle, the pyramid structure of sport, the open competitions in sport, the fact that sport is organised on a national basis ... financial solidarity, the redistribution of money from the professional game to the grassroots game, that's very important for us."
The UEFA-EU dialogue is seen as being of mutual benefit to both sides, and UEFA president Michel Platini has been on hand in Brussels on numerous occasions to put across UEFA's views and ideas. "President Platini has already met several commissioners, he has met the president of the European Commission, Mr Barroso, he has met the president of the European Parliament," said Mr Infantino. "Dialogue is very important, because we are in Europe, we are the European governing body for football, and we think that we are a valuable partner to the European Commission ... and I think they think the same about us."
The relationship between UEFA and the EU will doubtless remain close and fruitful in the coming years. "It will continue to be positive," Mr Infantino stressed. "We need, of course, the assistance and the help of the political authorities in the fight against sporting fraud, in the fight against illegal betting, in the fight against violence. All of these are issues which we cannot tackle alone ... and there, we feel that we can get the support that we need."
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