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2000-2007: Moving into the future

UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland
UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland ©UEFA.com

From the start of the 1990s, European football underwent a series of dramatic changes. The game became more commercially-oriented, and there were considerable developments in political, social and legal terms. Football was now not only an important social phenomenon – the game had become extremely big business, with huge sums of money at stake, and many stakeholders and interest groups involved.

As European football's governing body, UEFA had to meet these various changes and developments head on. The organisation began to gradually turn itself from an administrative body into a modern business concern with a corporate philosophy – conducting itself more like a business, while at the same time protecting the integrity of the sport and balancing all of the divergent elements with an interest in football.

From 1987 onwards, UEFA experienced dramatic growth in terms of staff and budget. There were also the effects, particularly from a legal point of view, of a Europe without borders; TV rights matters and the rise of more sophisticated and aggressive marketing techniques; football clubs being quoted on the stock market; increasing involvement of political bodies in football; the growing influence and power of Europe's leading football clubs. Football's commercial growth, as well as the resultant legal and political challenges confronting the organisation, increased the pressure on UEFA to adapt without delay and ask itself how it wished to exist within the game's new realities. One decision was for the organisation to move to the western Swiss town of Nyon in 1995 after three decades based in the Swiss federal capital, Berne, and open a new headquarters - the House of European Football - on the banks of Lake Geneva in autumn 1999.

In December 1999, the UEFA Executive Committee decided to go ahead with the revamping of European football's governing body. The administrative set-up underwent an overhaul, new priorities were set, and UEFA's administrative secretariat, renamed the UEFA Administration, was now led by a chief executive, Gerhard Aigner, who had been general secretary since 1989. Seven divisions were set up, each dealing with specific areas of football and UEFA's daily affairs. The administration continued to work alongside UEFA's committees and expert panels dealing with every fact of modern-day football.

Around this time, it was also recognised that the clubs and professional leagues should be given greater representation within UEFA's activities. UEFA pursued an intensification of dialogue with the top clubs and leagues, while maintaining its long-standing bond with the national associations. It was evident that to maintain its credibility, in both sporting and commercial terms, UEFA had to represent the entire spectrum of the football family – and this had to include the elite clubs, who generate considerable revenue through their participation in the major European competitions. The launching of the European Club Forum in summer 2002 led to intensified dialogue between UEFA and Europe's major clubs, just over 100 of whom were represented in the forum.

Lars-Christer Olsson's appointment as UEFA chief executive to replace the retiring Gerhard Aigner meant that two Swedes were at UEFA's helm from the start of 2004. Lennart Johansson was elected for a fourth term of office as UEFA president at the Stockholm Congress in April 2002, after 12 eventful years which had seen UEFA change into a modern business organisation in tune with the times. The Scandinavian duo were in place to lead UEFA through its 50th anniversary celebrations in 2004, in which a host of events and special activities took place in a special year for the European football community.

The following period saw UEFA continue to pursue its quest for greater legal certainty for sport and the recognition of sport's specific nature within the framework of future European Union legislation, to ensure sport's well-being in the future. Dialogue with the EU focused on concrete issues facing sport and on how the EU institutions, the EU member states and the European football authorities could provide a comprehensive and robust legal framework for European sport in general and football in particular.

Within UEFA, a fully-owned affiliated company, UEFA Euro 2008 SA, was set up to implement the organisation of UEFA EURO 2008 in Austria and Switzerland. The fight against anti-doping was stepped up, with a new anti-doping unit created within the UEFA administration, and in-and-out of competition tests increased across the full palette of UEFA's competitions.

In the club competitions, the UEFA Champions League – Europe's leading club competition, and previously the European Champion Clubs' Cup – celebrated its 50th anniversary and continued to prove an outstanding sporting and commercial attraction, with media and marketing successes going hand-in-hand with memorable football featuring the world's top players. The format introduced for the 2003/04 season – one group stage and a knockout phase beginning with 16 teams – remained in place. At the same time, work to enhance the UEFA Cup's image was ongoing, with the introduction of a 40-team group stage a key step forward. On the national-team scene, UEFA EURO 2004 in Portugal broke records across the board, and the glorious unpredictability of football was confirmed when the outsiders Greece took the title.

The UEFA club licensing system was in place in time for the 2004/05 season, with the aim being to provide a framework for clubs to run themselves more efficiently. The system aims to improve quality standards in European football, including improvement of clubs' economic and financial capabilities, through the installation of appropriate financial tools, as well as the adaptation of their sporting, administrative and legal infrastructures to meet UEFA's requirements.

UEFA also undertook untiring campaign work in various social and humanitarian areas. It joined with the pan-European Football Against Racism in Europe network in a concerted drive to eliminate racism and intolerance from football both on and off the pitch. Partnerships were forged with other specific bodies as UEFA looked to support the belief that football could indeed be used a force to benefit society.

As football eased its way further into the new millennium, the authorities began looking at ways of enabling the game to be played on artificial playing surfaces at the highest level. Following pilot studies, UEFA decided in November 2004 that matches in its competitions could be played on approved artificial turf from the 2005/06 season.

In the new millenium, UEFA kept pace with the rapid development of new communications outlets with the launching in 2001 of a new subsidiary company dealing with new communications, UEFA New Media – eventually to be renamed UEFA Media Technologies SA – and the establishing of UEFA.com, viewed by many as the most comprehensive football website in the world.

Lennart Johansson, who oversaw the body's development as UEFA president from 1990 into the new millennium, explained UEFA's philosophy at the time: "It is quite normal for UEFA as a whole to endow itself with modern organisational structures able to respond to current and future [market] demands. It is indeed only with expertise, efficiency and modern successful management at all levels that UEFA can continue to promote and further develop the duality of solidarity and commercialisation for the good of football."