Our philosophy and approach
UEFA is a global pioneer of the club licensing system and aims to promote good governance in club football throughout Europe, continuously developing the system in consultation with its stakeholders to adapt to the ever-evolving landscape of European football.
Through the UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Sustainability Regulations and the UEFA Club Licensing Regulations for the UEFA Women's Champions League, UEFA sets the requirements clubs must meet in order to participate in its club competitions.
The system is fundamentally based on a number of principles, including equal treatment to ensure that all clubs, no matter their size or financial capability, are treated the same across the board.
Based on the principle of subsidiarity, UEFA's 55 member associations or their affiliated leagues act as the decision-makers when it comes to licensing clubs. However, the member associations are given a certain amount of flexibility in terms of how they implement the licensing system in order to allow them to adapt the system to the local environment in which football operates.
UEFA has a fundamental role establishing the regulations and the minimum criteria, but also in the training and education of national associations and clubs, and assists them to ensure the system is successfully applied.
The UEFA club licensing system is recognised as one of the largest and broadest governance projects in European football.
The licence is essentially a certificate confirming that a club fulfills all UEFA's minimum criteria for admission to UEFA club competitions. All clubs that qualify on sporting merit for UEFA club competitions must be granted a licence before they can actually take part in European ties.
Club licensing was first introduced in 2002 as a set of criteria to be fulfilled in order for clubs to be eligible to participate in UEFA club competitions. Since the first licences were granted in 2004, it has developed into much more than that, and is now embedded into UEFA member associations' strategic plans for club development and improved governance, as well as becoming a fundamental consideration in the key decisions that clubs take, and how they operate.
The primary objective of the system is to promote and continuously raise standards in all aspects of football in Europe within a transparent and efficient regulatory framework. This is an important point as football is in a continuous state of evolution and it is consequently vital that regulatory frameworks adapt accordingly to anticipate trends ensuring that good governance and development continue to progress for the benefit of the whole football family, from grassroots football all the way to the professional levels.
At present, two set of regulations govern club licensing for UEFA competitions:
• UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Sustainability Regulations (2022), applicable to UEFA men's football club competitions
• UEFA Club Licensing Regulations for the UEFA Women's Champions League (2022), applicable to the UEFA Women's Champions League
In the UEFA club licensing system, each member association is responsible for including in its national club licensing regulations all applicable provisions of the UEFA Club Licensing Regulations.
In addition, each licensor is free to increase or introduce additional minimum criteria in its national club licensing regulations for the purpose of entering UEFA club competitions.
As part of the process, the UEFA member association or league acts as the licensor, assessing each applicant. The licensing decisions must be submitted by the licensor to UEFA no later than the deadline established by UEFA (traditionally 31 May). Those clubs that sportingly qualify to a UEFA club competition and that get granted the UEFA licence will be able to participate in the following season's UEFA club competitions.
It is relevant to mention that licensors can apply a club licensing system to govern participation in its domestic competitions. For this purpose the licensor is free to increase, decrease or introduce additional minimum criteria in its national club licensing regulations for the purpose of granting permission to enter its domestic competitions.
The UEFA club licensing system has seen eight versions governing the licensing process to enter a UEFA men's club competition.
On 7 April 2022, the UEFA Executive Committee approved the latest version of the Regulations: the UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Sustainability (Edition 2022), which replace the UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations (Edition 2018), that came into force on 1 June 2022.
These new regulations were the result of a complete and comprehensive review that considered the experience gained over the past years and the changes to the sporting and economic landscape.
Supervised by the UEFA Club Licensing Committee, the regulations strengthen the club licensing and financial sustainability requirements to address new issues highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, prepare European football for future challenges, help build a more sustainable future for the game and continue to raise standards in the whole football community.
The regulations group criteria into six areas: sporting, football social responsibility, infrastructure, personnel and administrative, legal and financial, with the following objectives:
- To further promote and continuously improve the standard of all aspects of football in Europe and to give continued priority to the training and welfare of young players in every club;
- To promote participation in football and contribute to the development of women's football;
- To adapt clubs’ sporting infrastructure to provide players, spectators and media representatives with suitable, well-equipped and safe facilities;
- To protect the integrity and smooth running of the UEFA club competitions;
- To safeguard each club’s identity, history and legacy;
- To encourage cooperation between licensors and clubs and enable the development of benchmarking for clubs in financial, sporting, legal, football social responsibility, personnel, administrative and infrastructure-related criteria throughout Europe;
- To embrace social responsibility in football;
- To promote a healthy relationship between clubs and supporters and increase accessibility in football.
The UEFA Executive Committee approved the 2022 UEFA Club Licensing Regulations for the UEFA Women's Champions League in Vienna on 10 May 2022.
The first set of fully independent UEFA Club Licensing Regulations for the UEFA Women's Champions League came into force on 1 June 2022 and replace Annex XIII of the 2018 UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations.
The regulations are both a reflection of the reality of women's football, and a further support to women's football development through UEFA's club licensing system which has been operating successfully since 2019 for the women's club competition.
The objectives of these new club licensing rules specifically for women's football are to raise standards and professionalise women's football through regulatory mechanisms.
The new regulations enhance support for youth and technical development, with an increased number of mandatory youth teams and additional coaching staff, as well as ensuring minimum standards for training facilities and supporting the implementation of football sustainability policies. In addition, the new financial criteria aim to increase transparency, the quality of financial information, and financial management.
The UEFA Club Licensing Regulations for the UEFA Women's Champions League (2022) group criteria into six areas: sporting, football social responsibility, infrastructure, personnel and administrative, legal and financial.
In the UEFA club licensing system, the licensor is a UEFA member association or its affiliated league, and is responsible for assessing the licence applicants. It determines whether the licence applicants meet the club licensing criteria and whether they can be granted the licence required to participate in the UEFA club competitions.
The UEFA Club Licensing Quality Standard 2022 defines the minimum requirements that licensors must comply with in order to operate the club licensing system. Each year, an independent certification body approved by UEFA assesses compliance with all the relevant requirements. If the requirements are met, the certification body issues a certificate that is valid for one season.
The objectives of the UEFA Club Licensing Quality Standard are to continuously improve the club licensing and club monitoring processes and their professional management by the licensors, aiming in particular, to ensure:
- The credibility and smooth running of the club licensing system and club monitoring processes;
- The correct application of the core process, the deadlines, the catalogue of sanctions and the consequences of a licence refusal;
- Compliance with the principle of independence, confidentiality and equal treatment of all licence applicants and licensees.
Over the years, UEFA, as European football's governing body and thanks to the club licensing system, has amassed a large amount of information.
In its unique position monitoring the evolution of European club football, UEFA has published several editions of the UEFA Club Licensing Benchmarking Report, becoming over the years a renowned and authoritative voice examining the state of the game.
Published during the first quarter of every year, the UEFA Club Licensing Benchmarking Report paints a comprehensive picture of European club football, offering a thorough analysis of domestic and UEFA competitions.
The statistics on club finances are particularly valuable and unique, offering an overview of clubs' financial strength and guiding the development of the UEFA club licensing system.