A body with innovative visions, working in close harmony with its member associations and determined to safeguard football's key values – UEFA has stayed true to its mission in 2013.
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UEFA stayed faithful to its reputation as a body with a dynamic vision in 2013 – serving its member national associations with dedication, taking a series of far-reaching decisions – and striving to preserve football’s essential soul in an ever-changing environment.
One such visionary move gave full momentum to a 'EURO for Europe' in six years’ time, as the entire continent will celebrate the special appeal of national-team football with a UEFA EURO 2020 staged in 13 cities across Europe. In September, 32 member associations announced an interest in bidding to stage matches in 2020. "In 2020, the EURO will never have better lived up to its name," UEFA President Michel Platini said at the XXXVII Ordinary UEFA Congress in London in May. "It will be decidedly continental and profoundly European. It will be a EURO of unity and shared experiences. It will, of course, be a new challenge – a challenge of a new kind … [and with] one single language: football."
The European football family is also looking ahead with anticipation to UEFA EURO 2016 in France. This year, the ten stadiums were rubber-stamped, the logo was unveiled, and the tournament was given a slogan – 'Le Rendez-Vous' – as the 1,000 days to go landmark was passed. "Today everything is in place to guarantee a major success for football, for French football and French sport," said French sports minister Valérie Fourneyron in October. "State resources will more than meet the required objectives to ensure that EURO 2016 is a great success. And what is also important is the legacy which the competition will leave behind in the different host cities and beyond. "
Meanwhile, another EURO held the headlines in July – UEFA Women's EURO 2013, a resounding success on and off the field, and the provider of a wealth of records. "This was a new step forward for women's football," the chairwoman of the UEFA Women's Football Committee and UEFA Executive Committee member Karen Espelund said in December. "The EURO attracted 133 million viewers on television. It set a new record for spectators, nearly 217,000; 74% of all tickets were sold. There were 41,000 spectators at the final, with an average of 8,676 for each match. I would like to thank Sweden for organising an excellent EURO this summer." UEFA's sterling work with its national associations within the women's football development programme (WFDP) is having a profound effect, with more and more women and girls getting involved in the game. The importance of women’s football was further underlined by UEFA inviting its elite women referees to join their male counterparts at this year's UEFA courses.
The fight against racism reached new heights in 2013. At the London Congress, UEFA and its member national associations adopted a resolution emphasising European football's determination to eliminate racism from football. The resolution pledges that UEFA and the associations will step up their efforts to eradicate racism from the game. It called on players and coaches to make a full contribution to the campaign, and urged referees to stop or even abandon matches in the case of racist incidents.
As part of a zero tolerance stance towards racism, UEF's new disciplinary regulations include tougher sanctions for racist conduct – a minimum ten-match ban for players or officials, a partial stadium closure for the first offence in the event of racist behaviour by spectators, and full stadium closure for a second offence as well as a €50,000 fine. "UEFA now has some experience in the last ten years," said UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino. "The Executive Committee (…) thought we need to act – and not only to speak about fighting against racism and zero tolerance. For this reason, it was very important to send out a strong message – on the one side, we improve our awareness campaigns, and on the other side, we strengthen our sanctions against racism." Matchday three in the UEFA club competitions in October provided a high-profile platform in the campaign, with the European football family uniting to say No to Racism.
Financial Fair Play is starting to have an encouragingly positive impact, as proved by figures unveiled in August. A UEFA benchmarking report highlighted a €600m decrease in top division aggregate club losses – the first time on record that club revenue growth has exceeded wage cost growth – and a significant 70% reduction in clubs' overdue payable debts. "I think this reduction in only one year really shows concretely the effects of financial fair play," said Gianni Infantino.
Football's efforts to eliminate the scourge of match-fixing continued unabated. In September, UEFA welcomed a European Parliament resolution on organised crime, corruption and money laundering. UEFA continued its monitoring of more than 30,000 UEFA, top and second-flight matches, and in December, the Executive Committee submitted an 11-point draft resolution on football’s integrity to the national associations for consultation ahead of a vote on the resolution at next May’s UEFA Congress in Kazakhstan.
UEFA's social heart is sound. In August, the UEFA Monaco Charity Award of a €1m cheque was presented to the Johan Cruyff Foundation – carrying the name of the great Dutch legend – which helps nurture the mental and physical well-being of children and young people. A new youth competition – the UEFA Youth League – got underway successfully and is giving talented youngsters a crucial early taste of European competitive action. Care for football's grassroots culminated in the pan-European UEFA Grassroots Day in May, emphasising that football is for everyone. Dialogue with supporters – the lifeblood of the game – was pursued with diligence.
In his address at the London Congress, Michel Platini welcomed UEFA's strong relationship with the national associations, and that European football is flourishing. "The quality of the football is exceptional – better than ever – and the results are following close behind," he stated. "Throughout Europe, the game is progressing. From Reykjavik to Valletta, football is improving day by day. The development programmes that [associations] are putting in place are bearing fruit."
"European football is enjoying unprecedented popularity," Mr Platini emphasised. "In a way, our competitions unite nations and transcend borders … We can consider ourselves fortunate as we belong to an organisation that is on the move and forward-looking, a bold organisation that initiates more and more projects that promise great things."