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The Union des Associations Européennes de Football (UEFA) was founded in Basle (Switzerland) on 15 June 1954, bringing to fruition the pioneering vision of a handful of key football administrators of the time. Since then, the parent body of European football - one of six continental confederations of world football's governing body FIFA - has grown into the cornerstone of the game on this continent, working with and acting on behalf of Europe's national football associations and other stakeholders in the game to promote football and strengthen its position as arguably the most popular sport in the world.
The guiding principle of the initiators in the early 1950s was the fostering and development of unity and solidarity among the European football community. Now, over 50 years later, UEFA's mission remains very much the same. But it has also become the 'guardian' of football in Europe, protecting and nurturing the well-being of the sport at all levels, from the elite and its stars to the thousands who play the game as a hobby. In 1960, UEFA had a full-time staff of just three people. That figure has risen steadily through the years as the organisation has reacted to changing circumstances. Today, 330 permanent staff members and 100 staff members on fixed-term contracts, representing nearly 40 different nationalities – administrators, secretaries, IT specialists, coaches, journalists, translators – are employed at UEFA's administrative 'nerve centre' located in the town of Nyon, on the shores of Lake Geneva in western Switzerland.
Over the decades, UEFA has developed from a mainly administrative body into a pro-active and dynamic organisation that is in tune with the vast requirements of modern-day football. UEFA is a sporting authority which does not have the powers of a government; it represents Europe's national football associations, and acts in accordance with the wishes of these associations. When UEFA was founded, the body comprised 25 national associations. The number of member associations rose gradually until the beginning of the 1990s, when political developments in eastern Europe and the fragmentation of the USSR led to a rapid growth in the number of new associations. Consequently, there are now 54 associations under UEFA's wing, and UEFA's constant objective is to seek a consensus among its members.
The period leading up to the 1954 FIFA World Cup final round in Switzerland, when the world body FIFA celebrated its 50th birthday, was a crucial stage in moves towards the foundation of an umbrella body for European football. In the early 1950s, a number of visionary football administrators, including the former Italian Football Federation secretary and president, Dr Ottorino Barassi, and his counterparts within the French and Belgian FAs, Henri Delaunay and José Crahay, pursued the idea of forming a united European block. The three men held a first round of talks in Zurich in May 1952, and informal discussions took place in Paris (1952) and Helsinki (1953). However, the movement in support of a body bringing together the European national football associations gathered real pace after FIFA had approved the statutory basis for the creation of continental football confederations at its Extraordinary Congress in Paris in 1953.
It was clear in the early 1950s that continental authorities, rather than just one central worldwide body, were needed to supervise and direct football's constant growth. Various discussions and proposals behind the scenes finally culminated in the calling of an official meeting for 15 June 1954 in Basle, and the official founding of UEFA. The body's first statutes were approved at the inaugural UEFA Congress in Vienna on 2 March 1955. From then on, UEFA was at the vanguard of every decisive step forward in European football, both on and off the field. The early UEFA figureheads were Ebbe Schwartz (Denmark), who became president on 22 June 1954, and Henri Delaunay, who was UEFA's first general secretary from the official founding meeting on 15 June 1954 until 9 November 1955, when he was succeeded by his son Pierre Delaunay (France), first on an interim basis, and then officially from 8 June 1956.
The European Champion Clubs' Cup, Europe's flagship club event featuring the continent's domestic champion clubs, was founded in April 1955; the Inter-Cities' Fairs Cup (the forerunner of the UEFA Cup and, from 2009, the UEFA Europa League) was founded later that month, and a new European competition for senior national representative teams, the European Nations' Cup, got under way in 1958 after two years of groundwork. UEFA also took over responsibility from FIFA in 1956 for staging the popular International Youth Tournament, an event which had been staged since 1948.