Representatives from all 55 member associations, FIFA, sister confederations and football stakeholders gathered at UEFA's annual Club Licensing conference in Cyprus.
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The two-day event in Limassol, hosted in collaboration with the Cyprus Football Association (CFA), also welcomed clubs and fan groups in one of the crucial events in European football's off-field calendar.
The conference offers an excellent platform for exchange and discussion, addressing some of the latest updates in the regulatory framework, changes made in the club licensing system, and provides an opportunity to share best practices and benchmarking information on European club football.
This year, a special ceremony took place to celebrate 20 years of UEFA's Club Licensing programme, with more activities planned in the coming months.
Andrea Traverso, UEFA director of financial sustainability and research:
"In 20 years, a lot of things have happened in Club Licensing. When we started 20 years ago, we didn’t think it would become something so central in the development of football at a European level.
"Club licensing nowadays encompasses all kind of areas within football clubs. This is not just about financial criteria, it covers everything from youth education and technical skills to legal and infrastructure criteria. Club licensing is also playing a crucial role in the development of women's football, which has become more and more important."
Ivančica Sudac, chief of Club Licensing and Monitoring, Croatian Football Federation (HNS), and first vice-chair of the UEFA Club Licensing Committee:
"Club Licensing brought a lot of improvements in European club football. It was confirmed by various stakeholders, media and scientists. There are only benefits and we cannot live anymore without Club Licensing and Financial Sustainability in European club football.
"The co-operation and support of all 55 member associations and other stakeholders, such as the European Club Association and European Leagues is vital, and these events give us new knowledge and insights and the important opportunity for networking."
The Club Licensing programme is a key subject for global football, and the annual conference is an important opportunity for all those bodies to come together and share their experiences and enhance dialogue.
"It's a great platform to exchange with other global stakeholders and it's good for us to learn where we can improve and mimic some things and do more things in our own region," said Cristhian Tonelli, Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) professional football development manager. "Bringing the confederations and federations together to talk about what they are doing and how they are improving can help others bypass those challenges a little more easily."
The second afternoon of the conference was dedicated to women's football, showcasing the effects of last year's introduction of fully independent regulations for the UEFA Women’s Champions League.
The regulations promote participation, contribute to the development of women’s football, and protect the integrity and smooth running of the UEFA Women's Champions League. They are also designed to improve the professionalisation of clubs’ structures and contribute to long-term sustainability, as well as providing increased transparency and quality of financial information and financial management.
"I am so happy that women's club football became a part of the system.," explained Ivančica Sudac. "It will bring a lot of improvements to the women's game and I think this synergy between men's and women's football is absolutely essential, and also natural."
A panel session, moderated by UEFA head of Club Licensing Aleš Zavrl, and with the participation of representatives from Apollon Ladies FC, the African Football Confederation (CAF), the Scottish FA and Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan (AFFA), focused on raising standards in women’s football, discussed the role of governing bodies and the tools available for further raising standards of the game.
Zavrl closed the conference by summarising the importance of the forum as an opportunity to exchange and discuss the frameworks and initiatives with all stakeholders to ensure stability and protect the sustainability of European football.