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Diary of UEFA's inaugural Respect Forum

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From 28-29 June, UEFA gathered more than 200 stakeholders, from inside and outside of the game, in Frankfurt to share their expertise and experiences on how to make football a driving force for social and environmental sustainability.

2023 UEFA Respect Forum

The first-ever UEFA Respect Forum, held at the German Football Association (DFB) Campus in Frankfurt this week, brought together stakeholders from across the European football ecosystem with one common goal: "inspire, activate and accelerate collective action" to respect human rights and the environment.

"With this Forum we want to catalyse the creation of an ever-growing community of sustainability managers and stakeholders that interact in person around a wide range of societal and environmental trends, practices and innovations," underlined Michele Uva, UEFA Director for Social & Environmental Sustainability.

Over the course of two days (28-29 June), more than 200 attendees, including 36 speakers, had the opportunity to meet, engage and learn from speakers and panellists representing UEFA member associations, clubs, partners, non-governmental organisations and academic institutions. The result was an invaluable range of insights and innovative solutions, from both inside and outside the football world.

See the Forum agenda

In this overview, we look back at who said what at the Forum.

Day 1: collaboration and collective action

Watch back: 2023 UEFA RESPECT FORUM, 28 June, morning

From the first day, Forum speakers consistently emphasised the importance of collaboration and collective action in driving progress toward sustainability objectives.

In the Forum’s opening panel, Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees of UNHCR, underscored the role of football in aiding the integration of refugees into host communities and supporting their mental and physical health. "We often say that one of the best ways to protect refugees is to include them in society," said Grandi. "Sport is a powerful instrument of inclusion and integration."

Filippo Grandi (R) at the UEFA Respect Forum
Filippo Grandi (R) at the UEFA Respect ForumYuliia Perekopaiko/DFB

The session on leading practices and trends in social and environment sustainability set the tone by stressing that sustainability should be viewed as a long-term investment by all parties. This is a central tenet of UEFA’s strategic approach, which has also embedded sustainability into its club competition licensing rules.

Opening eyes

Patrick Vieira, the Arsenal legend and EURO 2000 winner with France, and Union Berlin midfielder Morten Thorsby demonstrated the influential role that athletes can play in driving conversations and taking action on critical issues like discrimination and climate change within football.

Patrick Vieira (centre) and Morthen Thorsby (right) talk with host Pedro Pinto
Patrick Vieira (centre) and Morthen Thorsby (right) talk with host Pedro PintoYuliia Perekopaiko/DFB

"When I was younger, I was really inspired by some players who opened my eyes and made me understand I had a responsibility as a black player to show togetherness," Vieira said. "It’s important for me today to open the eyes of the next generation and build the tools that will allow us to change people’s mindsets."

Pivotal role of national associations

In a separate discussion, Teresa Romāo, General Secretary of the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF), and Ingo Mach, Sustainability Manager for the Austrian Football Association (ÖFB), highlighted the pivotal role of European football’s national associations in driving positive outcomes.

Romāo explained that the FPF has evolved from a purely governing body into a socially active organisation that engages with its community. In turn, Mach showcased the ÖFB’s innovative approach to climate action.

Watch back: 2023 UEFA RESPECT FORUM, 28 June, afternoon

Partnerships key to cutting football’s environmental impact

Two separate panels focused on partnerships and events as a means to reduce football’s environmental impact.

Jaz Rabadia, Head of Responsible Business & Sustainability at Just Eat Takeaway.com, an official UEFA partner, guided the Forum through a roadmap towards the first fully circular UEFA Women’s Champions League final. Alison Biscoe (Centre for Sport and Human Rights), Alessandra Priante (UN World Tourism) and Lene Kryger (Sport Event Denmark) shared insights on how events can transform sustainability risks into opportunities.

"We’re marrying our worlds and that’s the beauty of this partnership," said Rabadia. "We know food, we know takeaway, we know packaging. UEFA know football, they know stadiums, they know events. So, when the two of us come together we can really fuse objectives around UEFA’s and our own sustainability commitments – and push ourselves a little bit further in terms of what actions we can take."

Football for Refugees

The Forum’s first day also included the second edition of the Unity EURO CUP, a joint initiative between partners’ UEFA and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. Played on pitches at the DFB Campus, the tournament featured 16 teams, each including eight refugee players, three non-refugee players and a minimum of two women. Finland emerged as the 2023 champions, but, in truth, everyone of the 170 players taking part in this unique tournament should be considered a winner.


FootbALL Awards

The Forum also took time to celebrate standout contributions by European clubs and players to furthering sustainability and anti-discrimination causes, handing out the first-ever FootbALL Awards:

Royal Belgian Football Association: acknowledged for developing a comprehensive football social responsibility strategy.

Arsenal FC: recognised for the impact of anti-knife crime campaign, No More Red.

Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL): praised for its International Weeks Against Racism initiative.

Lillian Thuram, France’s EURO 2000 and 1998 World Cup winner: honoured for his tireless efforts to fight racism.

The UEFA FootbALL awards winners
The UEFA FootbALL awards winnersYuliia Perekopaiko/DFB

Day 2: sustainability, part of EURO 2024’s DNA

Watch back: 2023 UEFA RESPECT FORUM, 29 June

With Germany due to host EURO 2024 in less than 12 months, the Forum dedicated its second day to discussing how the German Government, the DFB and UEFA are making sustainability part of the tournament’s DNA.

Opening the second day with a keynote speech, Nancy Faeser, German Federal Minister of the Interior and Community, said: "When we say we want a sustainable EURO 2024, we mean more than reusable cups and renewable energy – we want to create something that lasts," said Faeser, emphasising tournament’s determination to set new sustainability standards.

“It’s a big opportunity for us to show how sustainability can be a driving force for the event’s success,” said Michele Uva, UEFA’s Director of Sustainability, whose presentation set out how the tournament’s ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) targets are all aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Lasting legacy

A range of EURO 2024 stakeholders underlined the tournament’s potential for leaving a lasting legacy, not just for football but wider society. They included: Mark Stenger (Managing Director, EURO 2024), Célia Šašić (Vice President for Diversity and Equality, DFB), Sylvia Schenk (EURO 2024 Stakeholder Initiative), Frank Henke (Senior VP Sustainability Policy & Engagement, Global Legal, adidas), Michael Jopp (Sustainability Coordinator, Berlin Host City) as well as Nancy Faeser, German Federal Minister of the Interior and Community.

"When we say we want a sustainable EURO 2024, we mean more than reusable cups and renewable energy – we want to create something that lasts," said Faeser, emphasising tournament’s determination to set new sustainability standards.

Šašić suggested that EURO 2024 presented Europe with an opportunity to discover a "new sense" of who we are amid challenging times.

"This is a chance for Germany and European society to come together to build a new sense of ‘we’. We have war ongoing just around the corner, we had COVID-19 – crises everywhere," she said. "I think this can be a marker for us to come together as a community in Europe and decide our values and celebrate the way of life we have."

Heike Ullrich, DFB General Secretary, observed that by gathering diverse views from sustainability stakeholders, the Respect Forum represented an early example of EURO’s 2024 legacy. "This Forum would not have happed here in Frankfurt if not for (EURO 2024), so the legacy has already started by working here with you," said Ullrich.

The Forum was rounded up with a series of workshops diving into practical approaches for football to tackle discrimination, to measure the direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions it generates, and to advance the development of Walking Football.

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