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Protecting the beautiful game - Aleksander Čeferin

In his end-of-year message, UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin looks back at 2017 – a year when UEFA continued to impressively fulfill its core mission to protect, promote and develop European football.

UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin
UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin ©UEFA

The end of my first full year as UEFA President provides a perfect opportunity to reflect on 12 months in which UEFA has moved forward with purpose and confidence at the service of European football.

Throughout 2017, we have steadfastly remained true to our core mission of protecting, promoting and developing the game at all levels on this continent.

On the governance front, we have set the course for tomorrow. Reform proposals approved at the UEFA Congress in Helsinki in April are reinforcing UEFA's foundations and creating the necessary calm and stability for us to carry out our functions.

The close bond with our member associations has endured for more than six decades since UEFA's birth, and remains a firm cornerstone of our activities. In addition, we have strengthened our dialogue and relations with key European stakeholders such as the clubs and leagues, and given them an enhanced role within our decision-making process.

We are continuing our work at the forefront of the fight against negative phenomena like doping and match-fixing – eradicating the latter is essential if we are to safeguard football against a disease that endangers its very soul. Nor will we show any tolerance towards those who besmirch the sport with racist or discriminatory conduct.

Football must continue to use its power and popularity as a force for social good, and UEFA's social heart has been beating more strongly than ever in 2017.

Our new #EqualGame campaign is proving to be an excellent vehicle in transmitting core values of diversity and inclusion – and that football is a game for everyone, no matter who they are, what they are and where they are from.

The drive to attract more women and girls to football has also gained fresh impetus this year with the launch of the Together #WePlayStrong campaign. Women's football has considerable potential, and we must strive to change perceptions of it.

A great step in that direction came at the year's major European tournament, Women's EURO 2017 in the Netherlands, which took the elite women's game to another level. A memorable three-week festival of football saw new teams and new stars emerge – highlighting the excellent development work being undertaken by the European national associations.

The year has seen a trio of former top players join our organisation – Nadine Kessler and Dejan Stanković in March, and Luís Figo in October. I feel that this is very important for UEFA. Our new colleagues are ideally placed, with their knowledge and experience, to play a key decision-making role with us.

There is much for us to do and look forward to next year. A new national team competition, the UEFA Nations League, gets under way. We are eagerly awaiting the kick-off of a competition that will reinforce the standing of European national team football, such a crucial source of national pride and football identity.

Time never stands still in football, and we will be courageous, decisive and forward-looking in meeting challenges and strengthening our credibility. Rest assured that football will always come first in all of our actions. We must protect and cherish this beautiful game that means so much to all of us.

With this in mind, I would like to close by sending season's greetings to you and your families, and wish you a happy and prosperous New Year.

Aleksander Čeferin
UEFA President