UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino emphasises that input from UEFA's member associations in the decision-making process is essential to European football's well-being.
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The recent Top Executive Programme (TEP) strategy meeting in Dubrovnik, Croatia, provided the latest opportunity for the presidents and general secretaries of UEFA's 54 member associations to deal with the important sporting and political matters which our sport continuously faces – and to make their case to the UEFA Executive Committee.
Although the member associations meet at the annual UEFA Congress, the TEP meetings take place in a completely different atmosphere, as they are working sessions which focus more on sharing ideas in order to shape proposals. These debates and discussions are central in ensuring that the processes of good governance and transparency are maintained across UEFA's decision-making process.
Normally, issues which affect the long-term evolution of UEFA's competitions are discussed at committee stage before a final presentation ends on the UEFA Executive Committee's table for a final decision. These issues take time to resolve, but, equally, the TEP meetings allow the associations to make best use of the time available, in order to propose changes and address more immediate operational issues.
This TEP meeting came with a particularly packed agenda. Various proposals were made to stimulate debate, and the subsequent talks were shaped by the desire of the UEFA member associations to further promote and develop senior national team competitions for the long term, but always keeping in mind the agreed international match calendar and the continued respect of the principle of unity across all member associations.
These discussions have attracted much media attention, which comes as no surprise. The associations have been consistent in their wish to raise the profile of national team football, and it represents the biggest sporting evolution undertaken by UEFA since the creation of the UEFA Champions League in 1992.
It is our responsibility to come up with ideas to embrace national team football. Our intent is clear, especially when you see 'the EURO for Europe' approach for the final tournament of the UEFA European Football Championship in 2020, which has received strong support from our member associations. Added to this is the Week of Football concept for the European qualifiers for UEFA EURO 2016 and the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which will allow fans to watch more international football than ever before. These changes have whetted the appetite of our associations, but more still needs to be done in the months ahead.
In addition to the conceptual debates, certain other proposals and recommendations were submitted to the UEFA Executive Committee, which held its own meeting immediately after the TEP gathering. For instance, the request to retain the current date format of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship final tournament in odd years after 2015 was approved within 24 hours of the request being made! This is democracy at its finest…
We appreciate the input provided by the member associations, especially where they make proposals and take decisions for the benefit of European football as a whole. It is this vision, based on principles of unity and transparency, which allows us to strengthen and progress European football for its long-term benefit.