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Respect must take priority

Before the UEFA Champions League play-off draw, the clubs were asked to maintain a firm sense of respect and fair play on and off the pitch in order to keep the beautiful game thriving.

The UEFA general secretary spoke of the need for a positive approach to the game
The UEFA general secretary spoke of the need for a positive approach to the game ©UEFA.com

The continuing experiment with additional assistant referees, mutual respect for match officials, opponents and fans, and financial fair play – all elements which will mark this season's UEFA Champions League.

In his address to the draw ceremony for the competition's qualifying play-offs in Nyon, UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino highlighted all three aspects as the eagerly awaited group stage moved ever closer.

"The play-offs this season will bring about a new element which could prove essential for the future of the game," he said. "Following the request submitted by UEFA, the International Football Association Board [IFAB] recently accepted that the experiment of two additional assistant referees be held at all UEFA Champions League matches as of the play–off stage.

"We believe that this solution can strongly support the referees to take correct decisions in difficult and sensitive situations," Mr Infantino explained.

The UEFA general secretary called on the participating clubs to conduct themselves both on and off the field in a spirit of fair play and respect for referees, opponents and fans. "But please do not take it as a simple reminder of a well-known message," he said. "The well-being and success of the game is primarily in the hands of its main actors.

"A positive approach to the game and the firm sense of respect that should take priority even over the sporting result, are the necessary conditions for the game of football to stay what it is – the beautiful game – and to keep on thriving."

Mr Infantino went to say that the respect that is due to the game and to opponents had another important role in the financial behaviour of clubs. "Winning with fair play means also having a healthy and correct approach to financial leverage, competing with your own means, adopting a transparent and accurate governance and financial practice," he said.

"This is the reason which pushed UEFA to introduce the club licensing system some years ago and the financial fair play rules right now, and we are happy that this system is well understood and enjoys widespread support from clubs and leagues."