The UEFA Executive Committee has announced the expansion of the UEFA European U21 Championship, a new role for Sir Alex Ferguson and the trial use of vanishing spray by referees.
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The UEFA European Under-21 Championship final tournament will be expanded from eight to 12 teams for the 2017 competition, one of several announcements made today by the UEFA Executive Committee in Nyon.
The U21 final tournament was a knockout competition until 2000, when eight qualifiers were divided into two groups of four, with the top two going onto the semi-finals. This format has been used for eight tournaments, but after the ninth in the Czech Republic in 2015 the final stages of the championship will be expanded to 12 sides.
Sir Alex Ferguson has been unveiled as a UEFA Coaching Ambassador, the appointment made at the committee's first meeting of the year, which was held at the House of European Football in Nyon, Switzerland. In his role, Sir Alex will be part of the UEFA Champions League Technical Study Group, and will chair the annual UEFA Elite Coaches Forum, where Europe's top club coaches discuss tactical and technical trends. He will also attend the UEFA National Team Coaches Conferences, the UEFA Coach Education Workshops and the UEFA Coach Education Student Exchange programme courses, passing on his experiences to the next coaching generation.
The UEFA Executive Committee has also approved the trial use of vanishing spray paint by referees at May's UEFA European U17 Championship in Malta. The spray allows the referee to mark the line where the defending team must set up its defensive wall before a free-kick is taken. Referees pace the regulatory 9.15m between the ball and the nearest defender, and then spray a temporary white line on the pitch to indicate the correct position of the wall. The line then disappears from the pitch within a minute. Based on the outcome of this trial, the spray may be considered for use in other UEFA competitions.
The next meeting of the UEFA Executive Committee will take place in Astana, Kazakhstan, on 25 and 26 March, ahead of the XXXVIII Ordinary Congress on 27 March.