Certain essential principles have guided UEFA since its creation in 1954 – with every decision taken by UEFA being in football's interest.
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There are several objectives behind UEFA's activities. There is the intention to promote and further develop the well-being of football in Europe and to foster a spirit of unity and solidarity among the continent's footballing community. The organisation also strives to encourage the ideal of Respect, not only on the field, but also among the millions of spectators who attend matches.
Just as politicians attempt to achieve greater European unity, UEFA seeks to establish a footballing 'whole' by bringing together football's true values and the external economic, legal and financial aspects linked to the game to form a unified entity. Consequently, UEFA subscribes to the view that the grassroots level of football is as important as the elite level as far as the sport's health is concerned.
It is the grassroots that form the basis for the higher sphere, while the revenue earned by the elite supplies the resources which can be reinvested in the lower levels. UEFA believes it is vital that the revenue generated by the game should stay in the game, rather than go to third parties who may only be involved in football for their own personal gain. Although the considerable income generated by UEFA from its various competitions, through such channels as television rights, may suggest that it is a commercial enterprise, UEFA is actually a non-profit-making organisation, which redistributes revenue among its associations for use at domestic level.
This money in turn is used to strengthen such diverse areas as youth and women's sectors, refereeing, coaching and football administration. This should ideally lead to the raising of standards in each country's national football, with the knock-on effect being that the overall game in Europe should flourish.
Another of UEFA's key roles is to act as an intermediary, in particular with political authorities such as the European Union (EU). The objective is for ideal solutions to be found if problems arise which represent a danger for football's current or future well-being. UEFA strives to ensure that football retains as much autonomy as possible, namely that football's destiny remains in the hands of football people.
While football may be a passion to those who play and watch, there are rules of conduct which must be maintained, both on and off the pitch. UEFA has put considerable energy into its fair play and Respect campaign, aimed at guaranteeing that football's sporting ethics are respected by players, officials and supporters. Assessments are made of their behaviour at the vast number of matches organised by UEFA each season, and exceptionally sportsmanlike conduct is rewarded.
A fair play ranking table is compiled on the basis of these assessments, with the three associations finishing first, second and third allocated an additional place in the UEFA Europa League. Prizes are also awarded to teams and fans that distinguish themselves in particular competitions.
The Respect campaign, which features prominently at UEFA competitions and events, was launched ahead of the UEFA EURO 2008 tournament in Austria and Switzerland. Respect is a global word that is readily understood in many languages – much like football is. The Respect campaign dovetails with programmes aimed at combating violence, racism, xenophobia and homophobia, as well as at nurturing fan support, intercultural dialogue, the environment and humanitarian relief.
The goal is to promote a sense of social responsibility, based not only on respect for opponents and match officials but also for rival supporters, national anthems, flags, tournaments – and the game itself.
Football is, above all, a sport which has an undeniable beneficial impact on social life. The characteristics of the game – its emotions, excitement and memorable history – all lend football its own particular aura. Through its actions, UEFA bids to preserve these characteristics, and will continue to do its utmost to make sure that European football continues in the best of health, and as a united community with our sport#s best interests at heart.