'Sharing common visions for Europe and its football'

In an address to European Union sports ministers in Brussels on Wednesday, UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin urged the European political authorities to work together with UEFA for "a European football that is fair, unpredictable, open and united".

UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin
UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin ©UEFA.com

Sharing common visions for the future of Europe and its football – maintaining competitive balance in football – respecting the European sports model – strengthening links between UEFA and Europe's political authorities.

Key messages in UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin's address to the Council of European Union Sports Ministers in Brussels on Wednesday.

Mr Čeferin explained various aspects of UEFA's role, mission and responsibilities to the ministers from the EU member states. He stressed European football's commitment to promoting unity and solidarity, and urged the EU to work together with UEFA for "a European football that is fair, unpredictable, open and united".

UEFA has nurtured positive relations with the EU and European political institutions, in particular through a series of cooperation agreements, and has received support in return for its key policies, including financial fair play, good governance reforms and making football accessible to everyone.

"This relationship is imbued with trust, shared values and a mutual desire to act in the general interest," the UEFA President said.

"Over many years, football has become so much more than just a game, a passion or entertainment," he added. "It brings together half a billion European citizens, regardless of age, class and religion. It brings the hope of the future. It is part of Europe's shared culture.

"As the governing body for football in Europe, UEFA represents the first social movement of this continent. It is an important responsibility," he continued.

Mr Čeferin underlined that UEFA's role went beyond the organisation of competition and establishment of rules. "Day after day, we uphold a set of values and reconcile the competing interests of various stakeholders – fans, players, clubs, leagues, national associations, broadcasters and sponsors.

"And the increasing commercialisation of football only underlines the need for a strong, credible, forward-looking governing body," he said.

The UEFA President emphasised that financial distribution was at the heart of UEFA's philosophy, through reinvestment of its revenue in the game to ensure its overall well-being. "Just as a state will finance and maintain its public services and infrastructure, UEFA strives to finance its own activities."

He went on to highlight UEFA's determination to protect the European sports model. "As long as I am UEFA President," he stressed, "there will be no room for pursuing selfish endeavours or hiding behind false pretences.

"I cannot accept that some people who are blinded by the pursuit of profit are considering to sell the soul of football tournaments to nebulous private funds.

"Money does not rule – and the European sports model must be respected.  Football is not for sale. I will not let anyone sacrifice its structures on the altar of a highly cynical and ruthless mercantilism."

Turning to competitive balance in football, Mr Čeferin said that the concentration of wealth in the hands of a handful of clubs "threatens the competitive balance that is essential to football's appeal".

"We are ready to take action to enhance competitive balance ... There is an urgent need to act and respond before it is too late."

The UEFA President urged the EU member state governments and the European Commission to maintain and reinforce support for UEFA's endeavours. "Do not sit idly by ... do not adopt a wait-and-see policy," he said. "You should share this objective that we strive to meet: the openness and unpredictability of competitions."

The UEFA EURO 2020 final tournament to be staged in 12 cities across Europe in two summers' time was, Mr Čeferin said, "a one-in-a-kind opportunity to celebrate Europe together" and would – as well as boosting the popularity of football and creating employment opportunities – contribute to achieving several key objectives in the area of EU integration.

"It will foster regional development," he reflected. "Cultural diversity, social cohesion, sustainability, innovation and economic growth – we are in the starting blocks for delivering an array of lasting benefits which will endure in Europe long after the tournament is over."

The UEFA President welcomed the proactive and positive relationship with the EU. "I want to build up the future on the basis of collaboration and cooperation," he said. "European football is stronger when it brings together all stakeholders around the same, common objectives.

"Altogether, we can portray a strong, unified Europe and demonstrate our joint commitment to bringing positive changes across the European continent."