Despite the postponement of EURO 2020, UEFA quickly committed to its 2020–24 funding cycle for HatTrick – the football development programme which, every four years, channels UEFA EURO revenue to UEFA’s 55 member associations. In the last of a special series, we we learn about Finland's ground-breaking football projects that will continue to thrive thanks to UEFA’s commitment.
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In qualifying for the delayed UEFA EURO 2020, the Finns reached their first-ever major international finals. This is a cause for huge celebration in a country of 5.5 million people, but hard work behind the scenes meant success was long in the making, and UEFA HatTrick revenue has been key to providing opportunities for Finland’s 140,000 registered male and female footballers.
Since 2004, the Football Association of Finland has used HatTrick funding to improve its national football infrastructure – helping both elite and grassroots players.
At grassroots level, in the past five years alone, 81 new artificial pitches have opened, taking the country’s total to 350. These multi-weather surfaces can be used year-round despite Finland’s harsh winters. Additionally, 30 new indoor football halls and 100 new mini-pitches have also helped to make football more accessible and strengthen its position as Finland’s number one participation sport.
That this funding has continued during a challenging year has meant key projects have been able to continue.
"Given the widespread economic crisis we are seeing across the world relating to COVID-19, we are very grateful for the recent HatTrick funding received which we will forward straight to our clubs in order to ensure that our clubs can continue with their football development," explained Marco Casagrande, general secretary of the Football Association of Finland.
"In general, it is fundamentally important for national associations that UEFA is able to confirm the HatTrick payments also under these exceptional circumstances. This will keep both the daily routines and the projects running as planned."
Elevating the elite
Football’s future at the top of the game has also been secured. HatTrick revenues have been channeled to the construction of an arena at the national training centre in Eerikkilä, helping provide Finland’s international teams with start-of-the-art facilities to prepare for fixtures.
At Eerikkilä, the SPL-FBF also established one of its three regional centres of excellence and development. Additionally, as Finland covers an extensive area, the organisation decided to establish centres in the north, centre and south of the country, with the aim of developing players, coaches and clubs, going on to raise the quality of elite football and making Finland more competitive at international level.
Around the country, 21 stadiums have also been built or renovated thanks to HatTrick funding, including the stadiums in Vaasa and Seinäjoki, which hosted the UEFA European Under-19 Championship finals in 2018.
HatTrick funding also contributed to the renovation of two of the five stadium pitches which hosted the UEFA Women’s EURO in 2009 and in the renovation of the Telia 5G and Wiklöf Holding Arenas (WHA), which will also host national team matches in the future.
Since 2004, European football's governing body has distributed a significant proportion of UEFA European Championship revenue among its 55 national association members to help develop the game in three areas:
1: increased investment funding
2: improved education
3: wider knowledge-sharing
Today, it is recognised as one of the largest solidarity and development initiatives in sport, and will contribute €775.5m between 2020 and 2024 to the development of football – from the strengthening of women's football and the construction of pitches for local communities to ground-breaking social responsibility projects.