Speaking at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin stressed UEFA's commitment to cooperation and dialogue with European institutions and public authorities to protect the best interests of football and sport in general.
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UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin has reaffirmed UEFA’s commitment to joining forces with the Council of Europe (CoE) to work in the interests of the long-term well-being of football and other sports.
Mr Čeferin was in Strasbourg to sign a memorandum of understanding with CoE Secretary General, Thorbjørn Jagland, aimed at further developing mutual relations and setting up new initiatives.
The agreement further reinforces cooperation between UEFA and the European public authorities, and strengthens a flourishing network of fruitful relationships.
UEFA is the first sports organisation to enter into a formal partnership agreement with the CoE, an international organisation with 47 member states whose objective is to uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe.
UEFA and the CoE share the same position on a variety of issues. In particular, both are in full agreement about sport’s societal role in being accessible to all people, regardless of gender, race, age, disability, religion, nationality, sexual orientation and social background.
Before signing the memorandum, the UEFA President addressed a Council of Europe Committee of Ministers meeting. “UEFA and the Council of Europe have always enjoyed a good working relationship,” he reflected.
“Let’s team up, because there is so much that we have in common.”
“A desire to heighten positive European values; a consciousness approach to the role of sport for the life of nations and citizens; a core duty to preserve football for all, regardless of religion, colour or political opinion; a genuine commitment to good governance; an obligation to safeguard the principles of fairness, unity and solidarity; a steadfast pledge to preserve the European sports model.”
“This agreement will enable us to work together and team up,” he added.
Mr Čeferin noted that nearly all of the 55 UEFA member associations come from within the CoE’s territory. “The Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport has been at the basis of our cooperation for ten years now – it has enabled us to share knowledge, promote the positive values of sport and look at various matters.”
The UEFA President reiterated the two bodies’ firm commitment to defending the European sports model. “This model is about openness, equality and solidarity; it ensures that our sports remain accessible to the greatest number,” he said.
“It promotes education and training for our youth…ensures that sports continue to thrive across the whole of Europe…binds the amateur game and grassroots to the professional elite.”
“Imagine for a second,” Mr Čeferin continued, “that football competitions were sold to the highest bidder, with little regard for transparency or competitive balance, nor for the existing structures of sport. What would happen?”
“As I have said, football is not to be sold. So we shall not accept that new projects erode the very foundations of the European sports model – under any pretext.”
Mr Čeferin welcomed January’s approval by the CoE Parliamentary Assembly of UEFA’s good governance reforms designed to strengthen UEFA and improve its transparency.
“[This approval] acknowledged that our initiatives are aimed at protecting and enhancing positive values in the game,” he said. “It paid tribute to our efforts towards more transparency, inclusivity, democracy, integrity, participation and accountability in European football.”
The UEFA President urged teamwork with the CoE to protect sport’s integrity. “I can tell you here without the slightest hesitation,” he stressed, “I will never spare any effort to stamp out the scourges of match-fixing, hooliganism, discrimination and sexual abuse in sport.”
“At UEFA, we have intensified our activities and initiatives in an effort to combat these scourges. Our effectiveness depends on all of us putting up a united and resolute front.”
Mr Čeferin called on CoE member states to ratify and implement the 2014 Macolin convention on match-fixing. UEFA contributed in helping draft the convention.
Mr Čeferin closed by calling on CoE states to come together with UEFA to “celebrate Europe together” at the UEFA EURO 2020 finals, to be staged in 12 cities across the continent in two years’ time – “allowing more fans from more nations to share in the excitement of the event,” he emphasised.
“Your respective countries will also benefit greatly from this event – many of you will be presented with an unprecedented momentum to promote the positive values of sport [and] witness football acting as a bridge between nations like never before.”
“Having said this, the organisation will raise a number of important challenges at operational level on matters such as non-discrimination, labour rights, visas, safety, security and so on.”
“So, let’s team up,” Mr Čeferin concluded. “It is high time after all.”