UEFA is celebrating its 60th birthday this year. Here, we look back at the historic moment in June 1954 which heralded UEFA's birth, and the pioneers behind the new European football body.
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In the years following the end of the Second World War, many of Europe's national football associations were looking to play more games at international level, in addition to the FIFA World Cup, the Olympic Games and friendly internationals.
Another major objective was the formation of a united European football movement that could progress in a variety of areas, such as competitions, refereeing, coaching and television. The ultimate aim, however, was to bring Europe's national associations together into one body, fostering solidarity and strengthening them as a result.
With these ideas in mind, a trio began to set crucial wheels in motion at the start of the 1950s. They were Ottorino Barassi, president of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC); José Crahay, general secretary of the Belgian Football Association (URBSFA-KBVB); and Henri Delaunay, general secretary of the French Football Federation (FFF).
At the start of 1952, Barassi and Crahay called Delaunay and continued to fine-tune their idea at various gatherings across Europe. Important allies were gathered one by one. These included Ernst Thommen, president of the Swiss Football Association (SFV-ASF), Sir Stanley Rous, general secretary of the English FA, and Peco Bauwens, president of the Association of the Federal Republic of Germany.
The crucial moment followed in 1953, when, at an extraordinary FIFA Congress in Paris, the world football body authorised the creation of continental confederations. Later that year, some 20 European national associations met in Paris to discuss the future body's regulations. Barassi chaired the meeting, while Henri Delaunay acted as secretary and interpreter. A decision was taken to send questionnaires to all the European associations.
The defining meeting, which is considered as the official birth of UEFA, took place at the Hotel Euler in Basel, Switzerland, on 15 June 1954. A total of 28 associations were involved in the meeting. Czechoslovakia represented Romania, whose delegates had been unable to obtain a visa; England represented Wales; and Greece arrived during the meeting. A motion was agreed upon, which read as follows: "The European national associations decide definitively on the constitution of a group of the said associations, under a form to be determined. The assembly decides to name a committee representing this group, in conformity with Article XI, paragraph 1, of the draft regulations presented today. This committee is entrusted with drawing up, in conjunction with the previous committee, definitive proposed statutes and regulations, taking their inspiration from projects submitted at a previous stage, and to present this definitive project to the next General Assembly."
The six-man committee named at the meeting in Basel comprised José Crahay, Josef Gerö (Austria), Sir George Graham (Scotland), Ebbe Schwartz (Denmark), Gustáv Sebes (Hungary) and Henri Delaunay. There followed another meeting in Switzerland, in Berne on 22 June, when the new committee of what was known as the Group of European Associations elected a bureau comprising Ebbe Schwartz, Josef Gerö and Henri Delaunay and decided to submit draft regulations to the national associations.
On 29 and 30 October, in Copenhagen, the committee proposed Union of the European Football Associations in English, with the initials UEFA, and Union des Associations Européennes de Football in French as the name of the new confederation – replacing an earlier proposal of "Entente européenne". The draft statutes fixed the annual membership fee at 250 Swiss francs, laid down objectives, required the holding of an annual assembly, established the principle of one vote per association and stipulated that the Executive Committee should comprise eight members. It was also deemed that "the decisions taken by UEFA would not be binding on the national associations, but that they would take the form of recommendations, excepting matters concerning FIFA and UEFA elections".
The objectives defined were: the adoption of a common stance vis-à-vis FIFA; the designation of Europe's representatives within FIFA; the organisation of a European competition every four years; and the examination of all matters concerning European football.
Following that meeting in Denmark, Henri Delaunay wrote an article entitled Is It Possible to Build a Footballing Europe?, which expressed his optimism in the light of what had been decided and proposed: "… [T]he main focus should be on the idea of a competition open to all of the European associations. A three-member committee has been entrusted with examining this difficult problem, which should not lead to the infinite multiplication of international matches, or harm the World Cup…"
Vienna was the venue for the inaugural UEFA Congress on 2 March 1955. Peco Bauwens and Greece's Constantin Constantaras joined the UEFA Executive Committee, bringing the total number of members to eight, while Alfred Frey (Austria) replaced Josef Gerö, who had sadly passed away. Items on the agenda included television, football pools, fixture lists and competitions – as well as the adoption of the first official UEFA statutes – approved and put into force that day in Vienna.
With regard to the project to organise a European national team competition, the Congress decided that such a project was premature and called for further examination. In the meantime, the French newspaper L'Équipe had put forward a project to organise a European club competition. The Vienna Congress decided that it "was not at the present time competent to take an interest in a project directly concerning the clubs".
Both competition projects would come to fruition in the not-too-distant future. UEFA had been born, was finding its feet and was moving steadfastly into an exciting future…