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UEFA President Čeferin: protect the European sports model

President Aleksander Čeferin's opening speech to UEFA Congress 2024 celebrated the governing body's 70th anniversary and highlighted the need to protect the model that has kept European football at the top of the game for decades.

UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin addresses the 48th UEFA Congress

"70 years, and the most exciting chapters of our story have yet to be written."

UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin

European sport model

"European football's strength lies in an acute sense of belonging, an adherence to a clear, simple, powerful model based on common values. From Portugal to Kazakhstan, from Cyprus to the Faroe Islands, from Finland to Italy, there are no giants or minnows here, no haves or have-nots. Because of our system, it's a democracy where everyone can dream and victories are won on the pitch, and not off the pitch.

"At both club and national team level, [European football] has been at the top of the game for decades. We still are. And we are humble enough to put this indisputable success down to our unique model … a model based on solidarity, a model based on investment, unity, sporting merit, promotion and relegation. Our leaders must realise – and thankfully the majority of leaders did realise – that we should protect this model together."

How UEFA competitions support the European sports model

New format for UEFA men's club competitions

"2024 will see the launch of a revolutionary new format for our men’s competitions. A new format promising greater fairness, excitement, intensity, emotion and uncertainty. We are convinced that these changes are necessary and will benefit everyone, not least the fans and the clubs that want to turn the established hierarchy on its head. They will also lead to more solidarity as the income will be redistributed more fairly."

European Court of Justice decision

"Some people think that anything can be bought. Everything is for sale. This is one perspective on life but it is not ours.

"Football is not for sale. You can't buy dreams. You can't buy sporting merit. You can't buy the values that make football a strong and glorious game. You can't buy 70 years of history."

70 years of UEFA

"Seventy years of history, tradition, passion, unity, courage and creativity cannot simply be brushed aside. Our story is only just beginning. It is a story that we will continue to write together. All of us. Because, more than ever before, we are masters of our own destiny. Football is counting on you. And I am also counting on you."

European unity

"The history of European cooperation is represented by certain symbols that are simply untouchable. And European football is one such model. Never before in modern times has our continent appeared so fragile, so fragmented, so fractured … But there is strength in unity, and unity is the only thing that can save us. At every level, right down to the humble football pitch."

Football, a vehicle for unity and inclusion

"I express my full support for all those players, coaches, referees and officials who have suffered abuse in our stadiums or on social media. Those who discredit our sport in this way … are nothing but cowards. Cowards who often hide behind the anonymity of their apartments and their screen. Together, let us write a new chapter. One in which football is a peaceful sport, free of its demons. Free of these cowards."

European sports model: at a glance

EURO 2024: sustainable, green

"I can promise you a EURO that will be festive, joyful and friendly. This EURO will be a sustainable, green tournament …We will use existing facilities to minimise the impact on the German taxpayer and on the environment. It will be a great EURO that we will never forget. A EURO with a legacy programme based on funding renewable energy projects at thousands of amateur clubs."

Secrets of UEFA's success

"The HatTrick programme was launched just over 20 years ago, and we are proud to be writing a new chapter in what has become the most substantial financial redistribution and solidarity programme in European sport. For two decades now, UEFA has been donating the profits from the EURO to its 55 member associations to help fund their development programmes … HatTrick VI begins today, with a 21% increase in funding. Investing heavily today so that we can continue leading the way tomorrow."

Women's football

"The growth of the women’s game has been nothing short of incredible. Far beyond anyone's expectations. The 2019 World Cup held in here in France was a turning point. People started to notice the standard of play and the passion that women's football could generate. We are doing everything we can to ensure that this success continues."

Partners

"I am grateful for the trust shown by the clubs and the European Club Association, the leagues, the European players' union and the supporters' associations. You are football's bedrock and foundation. We have not always seen eye to eye, but today we are more together, more united and stronger than ever."

Legends of European and world football

"I would like to spare a special thought for three (footballers) who stood out not only because of their brilliance and talent, but also because they showed class both on and off the pitch. Sir Bobby Charlton, Kaiser Franz Beckenbauer, Gigi Riva: we will miss you, but your exploits will forever remain etched in our memories and in the annals of world football."

FIFA

"We have realised that if UEFA and FIFA are divided, football suffers. This rediscovered unity protects, and will continue to protect, our pyramid system, ensuring that football remains the number one sport in Europe… and all over the world."