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Celebrating 20 years of the UEFA club licensing system

Club Licensing Members

The UEFA club licensing system issued its first licences in 2004, promoting good governance in European club football. Now, 20 years on, it continues to promote and elevate standards across the continent.

20 years of UEFA Club Licensing

For the past two decades, the UEFA club licensing system has been a significant contributor to the rising standards of football across Europe.

Following the approval of the first UEFA club licensing manual in 2002, 478 football clubs were awarded a licence by UEFA in 2004, marking the official start of the licensing system. Fast-forward 20 years later and 10,480 licences have been granted in total, now acting as a key part of access to the UEFA Champions League, Europa League, Conference League and Women’s Champions League.

Clubs must meet UEFA’s minimum criteria to be granted a licence, specifically across six areas – sporting, football social responsibility, infrastructure, personnel and administrative, legal and financial.

By enforcing these standards, the UEFA club licensing system has helped European football adapt to an ever-evolving landscape and prepare for future challenges. It has fostered better governance, transparency, and accountability, driven investment in football infrastructure, nurtured youth talent and elevated coaching standards.

It has also bolstered financial health across football through the introduction of financial fair play in 2011 and the addition of financial sustainability rules in 2022. With UEFA investing 97% of its net earnings back into football, strong financial health at all levels of the sport has led to greater investment in return.

Women’s football is another area of the sport to benefit from the UEFA club licensing system. Since the introduction of licensing for women’s clubs in 2018, and with the latest regulations for the UEFA Women’s Champions League released in 2022, the development and professionalisation of women’s football has risen at a rapid pace.

The latest regulations for the women’s game boost support for youth and technical development and ensure high standards for training facilities and coaching personnel. The new financial criteria are improving transparency and financial management in women’s football, ensuring a sustainable future.

The impact of the UEFA club licensing system on football

The tangible impact of the UEFA club licensing system can be seen right across European football.

"The club licensing system brings stability and integrity to the competitions, and ensures sustainability on a long-term basis," explains Bakar Jordania, the Georgian Football Federation’s head of club licensing and monitoring.

"Club licensing is a tool and guidance for the development of each key segment of the football industry. It protects the heritage, values and identity of European football, by ensuring legal and sporting succession throughout the whole domestic and international football pyramid."

Bakar Jordania, head of club licensing and monitoring at the Georgian Football Federation

The UEFA club licensing system’s impact on Georgian football is evident on the pitch, with Jordania crediting the system for playing a part in the country’s historic qualification for EURO 2024.

In Iceland, the influence of the UEFA club licensing system can be seen in all areas of football in the country.

"Since the club licensing system was implemented, it has reduced the gap between the men’s top division and the second division by raising quality standards in the second division," says Fannar Helgi Rúnarsson, the Football Association of Iceland’s licensing manager. "It has massively helped to increase the number of educated coaches and it has helped to improve football facilities."

Inspiring domestic club licensing systems

The UEFA club licensing system not only ensures teams in European competitions meet its rigorous criteria but has also encouraged similar standards within each member association and its leagues.

Each member association acts as the licensor, evaluating every applicant. The UEFA Club Licensing Quality Standard, most recently updated in 2022, outlines the minimum requirements licensors must meet to guarantee the system's smooth operation.

The member associations can also tailor the club licensing system to govern their domestic competitions, adapting the minimum criteria as needed.

"The UEFA club licensing system principles have been used in the past by the Italian Football Federation to implement the domestic club licensing system," Italian Football Federation licensing manager Edoardo Gargiullo confirms. "Now, it continues to play an important role because it is currently an inspiration for the Italian domestic regulation."

In essence, the UEFA club licensing system has ensured that standards have significantly risen in football across European competitions and within member associations over the past 20 years.

With the system able to adapt the twists and turns of the sporting landscape, there’s no doubt that European football has a secure and sustainable future.

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