UEFA President Michel Platini has asked players and coaches to show greater respect towards referees, saying a positive example must be set for grassroots and youth players.
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Respect. A value close to UEFA's heart - and players and coaches are being asked to show greater respect towards referees at European competition matches this season.
In Monaco on Friday, UEFA President Michel Platini spelled out the crucial need for respect towards match officials – and emphasised that professional footballers and their clubs must set an example, to make sure that negative conduct vis-à-vis referees does not become rife in the grassroots and youth game.
"UEFA's role is obviously to promote, protect and develop football, off the pitch, and especially on it," said Mr Platini. "We cannot say that coaches and players always uphold the spirit of fair play and respect. UEFA has written to the clubs taking part in this season's competitions, and has stressed that referees will punish players who crowd and aggress referees, or who fail to show respect in other ways towards officials and opponents. We have also reminded the clubs here in Monaco." UEFA also urged its referees to protect the game and its image at their recent summer gathering.
In other issues relating to UEFA's ongoing Respect campaign, which began in 2008, the body was able to report positive news as it pursues a 'zero-tolerance' stance towards discrimination and violence in football. "The fight against discrimination and violence is a top priority for UEFA, not only in words but also in facts," said UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino. "We take this issue very seriously."
Tougher regulations introduced by UEFA now include partial and full closure of stadiums, and these measures have had a strong deterrent effect. There was a 45% decrease in cases of discrimination between 2013/14 and 2014/15; a steady decrease in the number of incidents of violence in stadiums; a 20% drop in cases involving fireworks and missiles over the last four seasons in the UEFA Champions League; and a 15% reduction in crowd disturbances in the UEFA Europa League from 2013/14 to 2014/15.
Several topics were put forward in Monaco. UEFA highlighted its financial fair play measures, designed to ensure the long-term stability of European club football. "Financial fair play has been really successful," said Mr Infantino. "We have been able to reduce wage inflation, we have been able to reduce the build-up of debts, and we have been able to lead European club football to a return to operating profits, and a general restoring of financial sanity to football."
This summer, UEFA issued updated club licensing and financial fair play regulations. "This is in order to encourage more growth, more competition and more market stimulation while maintaining control on overspending," said the UEFA General Secretary. "We want people to invest in football, but we want healthy investment."
Mr Infantino said that prior to the introduction of 'break-even' regulations, losses had grown each year, to a peak of nearly €1.7bn in 2011. However, since 2012 combined net losses of clubs have fallen by 70%. Overdue payables and deferred debts have also shrunk for the fourth successive year, while, in relative terms, transfer fees continue to decline compared to revenue and wages.
A third topic presented was a new financial distribution system for clubs in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League – in particular providing more funds for UEFA Europa League participants, clubs taking part in qualifying rounds and smaller clubs.
"It means more funding for all," said Mr Infantino. "We have a new record funding pot of €2.24bn per year. Solidarity payments to clubs not qualified for group stages are increasing by around 60%, and solidarity payments to clubs not qualified for UEFA competitions are going up by 35%."
"This new distribution system is not only the wish of UEFA, but also of the clubs, because it has been undertaken in consultation with the European Club Association," he added.
Finally, Michel Platini spoke of the exciting and unpredictable qualifying competition for the 24-team UEFA EURO 2016 next summer. "We have some matches of real quality," the UEFA President reflected. "There are teams who haven't qualified for some time who are in the race to qualify. The qualifiers are showing that there are at least 24 elite-quality national teams. This supports UEFA's goals to promote football, develop and strengthen national team football, and to develop young footballers."
Mr Platini added that preparations for UEFA EURO 2016 in France were progressing well. "The stadiums are practically all finished," he said, also expressing the view that the massive demand for tickets suggested that next year's tournament would be a huge public success.