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UEFA 'moving with the tide of history'

Addressing the XXXVI Ordinary UEFA Congress in Istanbul on Thursday, UEFA President Michel Platini cited the achievements and developments which give him confidence for the future.

XXXVI Ordinary UEFA Congress in Istanbul ©UEFA.com

Progress through unity and harmony; the desire to protect football; putting morality back into the game; preserving football's heritage; and acting out of solidarity. All these key elements have been raised by UEFA President Michel Platini in his address to the XXXVI Ordinary UEFA Congress in Istanbul on Thursday.

"Football," the UEFA President told representatives of UEFA's 53 member national associations, as well as sporting and political guests, "is too beautiful for us to leave it exposed to the numerous dangers that threaten it. Football is a wonderful thing, a treasure we must preserve."

Mr Platini spoke of various achievements and developments which gave him confidence for the future, while also emphasising a general determination to combat negative elements which still existed.

"First, I feel that together we have already achieved some great things," he said. "Reforming the club competitions, reforming the national team competitions, reforming our statutes, and launching major projects such as financial fair play and the European qualifiers, to name but a few. Also, and in particular, I feel that together we are continuing to move forward. Not only that: we are heading in the right direction.

"UEFA is an innovative and unique institution: a kind of research and development laboratory which works at all times for the advancement of football but with respect for tradition; a cutting-edge organisation, but one which forgets neither its past nor its roots."

The UEFA President referred to the new centralised marketing system for the European national-team qualifiers – "a project that will give our national teams' matches more exposure and will enable the associations to increase their financial stability in the medium and long term."

Unity of the entire European football family had also been achieved. "In 2007, (...) I promised to bring together around a single table all the families of football to bury the hatchet and put an end to the tensions that, for years, had riddled relations between UEFA and the different football bodies," Mr Platini said. "And so, a few months after my election, we signed memorandums of understanding with the representatives of the clubs, the leagues and the players.

"Bringing everyone together was one thing – an invitation was enough. Creating unity was quite another. This required persuasion. But we got there. In fact – and this is a first – you are going to witness the renewal of these memorandums today. They are a sign of restored, consolidated unity; a sign that European football is one indivisible whole.

"Ultimately, [the memorandums] guarantee that, for many years to come, football will remain the game we know and love: one in which clubs and national teams coexist in harmony."

The UEFA President refused to shy away from problems that still exist. "In some countries we know certain clubs better by their lawyers than their players, as some administrators try to make a name for themselves and bring in money by constantly taking the associations to court. This is unacceptable.

"In some countries players sign or terminate contracts under pressure or threats. This cannot be tolerated. We must do more to protect the players, without whom there would be no football.

"In some countries clubs spend money they do not have, while others no longer pay their players. How is it possible for there to be more money in football than ever before and yet so many clubs that have never been in so much debt? Professional football in Europe has run up losses of €1.6bn according to our latest study. How is this paradox possible? It is unsustainable."

Mr Platini said he had received a letter from the vice-president of the European Commission and commissioner responsible for competition Joaquin Almunia. He described the letter as "a marvellous victory for UEFA and for football". "The European Commission recognises the legitimacy of financial fair play and, in fact, challenges us to go further still.

"Every day that passes," he continued, "we see that with our reforms aimed at protecting the heritage of football, and with our projects designed to increase fairness and solidarity in our sport, we are moving with the tide of history."

The UEFA President said he was looking forward to this summer's UEFA EURO 2012 tournament. "Because after so much effort and so many sacrifices, I am confident that this tournament will live up to our expectations and provide us with its fair share of emotions."

He said it was essential to have no hidden agendas – "it is because we love football, because we are at its service, that we must work hand in hand.

"Violence, match-fixing, illegal betting, doping, pressures and threats against players, flouting contracts, trafficking of young players, money laundering: these scourges exist. They exist in society and they exist in football. It is up to us to fight them, with the help of the public authorities, to which I renew my call today.

"So let us protect the players, let us protect the game, let us clean up football," Mr Platini concluded. "This is our aim. This should be our obsession. Many of our projects are done in this spirit, in a deliberate attempt to put morality back at the centre of the game – let us continue creating history together. Football deserves it."