Working with the leagues

UEFA has felt the need to establish direct contacts with Europe's football leagues.

Although the national football associations are the very essence of UEFA and the key partners of its administration, as professional football has developed over the years, UEFA has felt the need to establish direct contacts with clubs and with the leagues of which they form part under the auspices of the national associations.

Improving relations
When the UEFA Administration was restructured in 2000, a Professional Football and Leagues Services unit was created, with the primary task of continuously improving relations with professional football in general and professional leagues in particular.

Annual surveys
Based on the principle that, in order to produce good, fruitful relations, partners should know each other well, the unit conducts annual surveys of the leagues run by UEFA member associations. This year, a questionnaire was sent out in April and the analysis of the results has just been published.

Combination of clubs
The UEFA Statutes define a league as: "a combination of clubs within the territory of a Member Association and which is subordinate to and under the authority of that Member Association."

Professional leagues
Of UEFA's 52 member associations, 30 have at least one professional league. Some have two, such as in England, where The FA Premiership constitutes the top division and the Football League, the world's oldest professional league, has 72 members.

Two categories
The 30 major leagues organised by these associations have been defined as European premier professional leagues and divided into two categories: firstly, the European Union Premier Professional Football Leagues (EUPPFL), a group of 13 leagues (plus Switzerland as an observer), whose relations with UEFA are regulated by a Memorandum of Understanding signed by both parties in 1998. This agreement makes particular provision for the democratic election of five representatives to the Professional Football Committee, including one vice-chairman. There are no formal relations between UEFA and the other 16 premier professional leagues, although UEFA occasionally informs them directly about important issues concerning them.

All football associations from EU/EEA member countries have a premier professional league, except Iceland, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg.

Two main areas
Generally speaking, premier professional leagues have two main areas of responsibility: organising the championship for their clubs and representing their members. In the 22 national associations without a league, these tasks are performed by the associations themselves.

Legal status
The survey focused on the leagues' legal status, the nature of their clubs (professional or semi-professional), the number of clubs and divisions and the leagues' responsibilities. Some of the information, which was provided by the national associations and leagues, is estimated. UEFA cannot therefore guarantee its accuracy. It mainly relates to the 2002/03 season (autumn-spring championship) or the 2003 annual championship. Only so-called "premier professional" leagues were taken into account.

Status and number of clubs
- According to data relating mainly to the EUPPFL, most leagues (61%) have association status. Some (28%) are limited companies, while others (11%) hold both association and limited company status.
- Across all the leagues, 81% of the clubs are professional. This figure rises to 88% where top division clubs are concerned, with all other clubs semi-professional.
- On average, the leagues contain 27.6 clubs. The average for the EUPPFL is 31.2 clubs. The number of clubs per league varies from 12 (in Croatia, Scotland, FYR Macedonia and Slovenia) to 79 (Ukraine).
- Thirteen leagues only comprise top division clubs. Thirteen others also include second division clubs, while four more are also open to third division clubs.
- On average, the top division contains 15.2 clubs, with a maximum of 20 (England, Spain, France) and a minimum of 10 (Austria, Republic of Ireland).

Areas of responsibility
Regarding the leagues' responsibilities in relation to the organisation of their championships, the survey revealed that:
- 67% of the leagues are responsible for producing the fixture list. - 60% of the leagues (69% of EUPPFL) are recognised as employers' representatives.
- A large majority (84%) of the leagues have no or only partial responsibility in relation to refereeing, which generally remains the prerogative of the national associations and referees' committees.

This article, which appears in abridged form, originally appeared in the UEFA publication uefadirect