In his end-of-year message, UEFA President Michel Platini says that various achievements have improved the European football landscape during UEFA's 60th birthday year.
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2014 was a great year for UEFA, as we celebrated our 60th anniversary with a series of historic decisions and landmarks. Over the last 12 months, we celebrated various achievements which made the football landscape in Europe better.
I am sure our national associations would agree with me when I say that this was a fantastic year for national team football as we created a new competition, the UEFA Nations League, which will kick off in 2018. This competition will reinforce the strength of international football and it follows on from the work we have already done this year to promote our national team game, with the start of the European Qualifiers and Week of Football.
The new format has been a breath of fresh air over the qualifying process and has provided stakeholders and fans alike with unforgettable moments of excitement and joy. There may have been some critics of this new format and the fact that 24 teams were qualifying for UEFA EURO 2016, but from what I have read and heard, most, if not all of them, are now on our side.
There was also plenty of praise for the UEFA EURO 2020 announcement. Thirteen cities in 13 countries will host the European Football Championship in a few years' time, meaning our continent will be united like never before. I am proud of the decisions taken by the Executive Committee, as UEFA is taking this fantastic tournament to new frontiers and countries that will join forces for the first time, creating a unique football feast.
Those who know me are aware that one of my priorities as UEFA President is to protect the game we love, and I am delighted that we took many decisions to do that in 2014.
I was thrilled that we unanimously approved a new integrity resolution at the XXXVIII Ordinary Congress in Astana. The 11-point resolution sets high standards for everyone to stand united and fight against match-fixing, which is a real threat to the soul of our sport.
UEFA also made huge strides in the battle against discrimination. Along with the sanctions which we applied to those who broke our rules and regulations, we worked diligently to promote our values. We led by example, organising the Respect Diversity Conference in Rome, cooperating in the Institutional Discrimination Seminar in Amsterdam and introducing new programmes and ambassadors to spread the word.
We also worked to protect the financial stability of our game. There were some difficult decisions made in the realm of UEFA's financial fair play rules as the Club Financial Control Body sanctioned clubs for the first time for breaking our new break-even regulations. These measures were taken in order to safeguard the economic health of club football and to make sure that teams are living within their means. They were tough decisions, but fair decisions, and FFP has already had a huge impact across our continent. Numbers do not lie and if you look at them, you will see that aggregated losses among clubs over the last two years have halved. That is an impressive accomplishment.
It is for all these reasons and more that I decided to announce in August that I want to stay for a third term as UEFA President. There was a lot of speculation that I would stand as a candidate for the FIFA Presidency, and I did indeed consider it for some time, but in the end I chose UEFA. I chose UEFA because I am passionate about our organisation and I am committed to making us stronger and better, now and in the future.
The immediate future is 2015 and I have many wishes for it. I would like to begin by saying that I am looking forward to seeing the new UEFA Foundation for Children take shape. I believe that we can start making a difference to children in need around the world.
I wish that UEFA and all of its stakeholders can continue to work together to develop and protect our beautiful game. I also sincerely hope football can make headlines around the world for moments of magic on the field rather than for the murky politics off it. I pledge to lead the way to make sure UEFA continues to set the standard for excellence and transparency in governance. Anything less than that, in our competitions and administration, is unacceptable.
Finally, I would like to pay tribute to some of the winning teams of 2014. So, 'enhorabuena' to Real Madrid CF, who won the UEFA Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup, and Sevilla FC, who lifted the UEFA Europa League. I also would like to say 'Glückwunsch' to VFL Wolfsburg for winning the UEFA Women's Champions League and, of course, Germany as well for capturing the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
My best wishes and football salutations for 2015!