Spain took home the Henri Delaunay trophy from UEFA EURO 2008™ in the summer, but the UEFA National Team Competitions Committee believes that as a result of the tournament's overall success, the entire football family emerged from Austria and Switzerland as winners.
"European football took another step forward," said committee chairman Gilberto Madaíl. "The football we saw was of high quality, and from an organisational and logistical point of view, everything went well. If you look at the financial and sporting aspects, there was linear progress up to 2000, but 2004 gave a huge boost and 2008 was even better. And we can hope 2012 will be even better still. The European Championship has grown, and it's now a perfect tournament in which everyone wants to participate."
With preparations for the next UEFA European Championship in Poland and Ukraine already under way, UEFA has begun to plan for the 2016 tournament, which will see the competition expand from 16 to 24 teams.
Mr Madaíl believes the move is a positive one, though he acknowledges that the increased number of participating countries will entail more behind-the-scenes activity to ensure the tournament runs smoothly. "It's going to mean a lot more work, as there will be a lot more people, with more organisational and logistical issues to be resolved," added Mr Madaíl, who is also a member of UEFA's Executive Committee. "I think it's a good thing, though, for those teams who can now aspire to qualifying. It's going to be an opportunity for them to join in European football's biggest party."
'Always a party'
The convivial atmosphere created by supporters at UEFA EURO 2008™ Fan Zones and in the stadiums contributed greatly to that image, and was one of the defining themes of the tournament. Mr Madaíl credited UEFA's Respect campaign, which was unveiled by UEFA President Michel Platini in the run-up to the event, with playing a major role in ensuring that standards of behaviour were high both on and off the pitch. "It worked very well. When we work on preventing things, we succeed," he said. "People are starting to understand that football is not a battlefield. It's for emotions, it's to make people happy. It should always be a party."
As president of the Portuguese Football Federation, Mr Madaíl added that he felt the players had also heeded the message, saying: "For our team, we had no problems. We picked up a handful of bookings, but there were less than in previous tournaments. I think the Respect message launched by UEFA is more far-reaching [than before]. It encompasses respect for everything and everyone. For fans, for the teams, and for referees, and I think it worked."
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