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Another hectic, fascinating and memorable year for UEFA draws to a close – with European football's governing body and its president Michel Platini having continued the mission to further develop and improve the game and its many facets. UEFA has refused to rest on its laurels, and looks back on a 2010 that is packed with achievements.
Preparations for UEFA EURO 2012 have gathered speed as the countdown continues apace. The qualifying competition is throwing up some intriguing results, and unstinting work is ongoing across Poland and Ukraine to ensure a memorable tournament in two summers' time. The late spring also brought joy to France who were awarded the UEFA EURO 2016 final round after a high-quality bidding contest.
Financial fair play in European football has been a key cause in 2010. UEFA has emphasised that its financial fair play measures are designed to safeguard the long-term health of the European game and introduce more discipline within club finances. UEFA's financial fair play initiative is aimed especially at curbing the financial excesses that have brought a considerable number of clubs into difficulty in recent times.
The fight against match-fixing went on unabated, as a means of protecting the game from the manipulation that is a threat to its glorious uncertainty.
As part of efforts to help match officials in their decision-taking, experiments have continued in UEFA's club competitions with additional assistant referees positioned on the goal lines at each end of the pitch to focus in particular on penalty-area incidents.
As far as the development of Europe's young match officials is concerned, the launch of the new UEFA Centre of Refereeing Excellence in Nyon gives UEFA the chance to work together with the referees and assistants of tomorrow at the excellent Colovray Stadium facilities which UEFA officially took over in April.
In its dialogue with the European Union (EU), UEFA has been seeking to strengthen the notion of the specificity of sport and build on the structures of the European sports model, underpinned by the sports federations. The protection of minors, financial fair play, sports betting and broadcasting have been some of the most pressing questions facing football governance and being discussed at EU level. Close cooperation with other sports federations has been ongoing at European and international levels.
Grassroots football remains essential for UEFA – healthy foundations mean a healthy elite. National associations have striven for recognition within UEFA's Grassroots Charter, while the inaugural UEFA Grassroots Day in May proved the power of the grassroots game across the continent. Properly educated coaches will help nurture good footballers, and UEFA's coach education initiatives, upheld by the UEFA Coaching Convention, are working to produce quality coaches who are improving football across Europe.
The HatTrick assistance programme on behalf of UEFA's 53 member associations goes from strength to strength. In every country, installations are improving and working environments are flourishing thanks to the funds UEFA is providing. The year ended with the positive news that the UEFA Executive Committee had approved an increase in solidarity payments to the 53 European national associations via the HatTrick scheme.
UEFA's member associations are sharing invaluable know-how and expertise through the Knowledge & Information Sharing Scenario (KISS) project, as well as through the innovative UEFA Study Group Scheme whereby football associations exchange invaluable technical information. A series of education schemes, headed by the ambitious Executive Master in European Sport Governance (MESGO), is geared, among other things, towards helping football administrators gain the requisite experience to help enhance their own associations' management work.
Zero tolerance – the policy adopted towards eliminating racism in the game – has been maintained, and the UEFA Champions League matchday in mid-October offered an ideal platform for UEFA and its partner, the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network, to highlight the pan-European anti-racism campaign.
Football comes first – accompanied by an unbending determination to move the continental game forward and face the challenges of the future. At this year's XXXVI Ordinary UEFA Congress in Tel Aviv, UEFA president Michel Platini – who announced he will be seeking a second four-year term of office at the next Congress in Paris in March – stressed the organisation's commitment to the 11 key values that underpin its work. "We have always been faithful to our ideas and values," he said. "And we will remain so. We are ready to face the future."
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