In everything that we do, football must always be the first and most important element that we take into consideration. Football is a game before being a product, a sport before being a market, a show before being a business.
At international and European level, the autonomy of sport is reflected by the pyramid structure of football. FIFA, UEFA and the national associations work hand in hand, while respecting the principle of subsidiarity. This allows us to defend the interests of football in the best possible way.
UEFA does not operate by dictat. We will continue to show strong leadership but operate in a spirit of consensus. In addition to the national associations, we will involve all stakeholders (leagues, clubs, players) in the decision-making process in European football, in particular through the Professional Football Strategy Council, so that the Executive Committee can take the right decisions. And we will aim for closer relations with football fans, without whom there would be no professional game.
UEFA and its member associations are committed to good governance. Good governance means openness, democracy, transparency and responsibility. In this spirit, UEFA defends the autonomy of sports structures, so that football bodies – with national associations in the lead – are the ultimate decision-makers in matters concerning football, with no undue interference from governments.
Football is based on the grass roots, played everywhere by men and women, boys and girls. The top professional level is just the tip of the iceberg. UEFA will continue with, and even strengthen solidarity, both to protect the future of football and to deliver the wider benefits that our sport brings to society as a whole. And it is also because the strength of football lies in its grass roots that we have to preserve the local, regional and national identities of our game, always in accordance with the law.
As governing body of European football, UEFA has both a sporting and a moral responsibility. The international transfer of minors entails many risks. Let's not forget that players under the age of 18 are children or adolescents. We want to protect the future of children in football and stop them being uprooted to foreign countries when they are much too young.
Betting is a source of funding but also a risk for football, especially to the integrity of competitions. It is only right that football obtains its fair share of income from betting. However, our primary focus must continue to be a total commitment to protecting sporting integrity and the proper running of our competitions, in order to preserve the true spirit of our game.
UEFA supports fair play both on and off the pitch. Financial fair play means that clubs operate transparently and responsibly, to protect both sporting competition and the clubs themselves. Financial fair play means clubs not getting into a spiral of debt to compete with their rivals but rather competing with their own means, ie the resources they generate.
National team and club football are vital and complementary elements of football. UEFA will remain committed to ensuring that this balance is maintained and even strengthened, as the development of our game at national, European and international level depends on it.
Respect is a key principle of football. Respect for the game, integrity, diversity, dignity, players' health, rules, the referee, opponents and supporters. Our message is clear: zero tolerance against racism, violence and doping. Football unites people and transcends differences. The colour of the skin is invisible under the jersey and, for UEFA, this will always be so. Racism and any other forms of discrimination will never be tolerated. UEFA will not tolerate violence either on the pitch or in the stands. Football must set an example.
UEFA is a European body and we remain totally committed to the European model of sport, a model characterised by promotion and relegation, the solidarity principle, as well as open competitions and opportunity for all. This is what sport – and especially football – is all about. We have to protect this model because sport is not simply a business like any other and we cannot allow it to be treated as such. We will continue to defend the specificity of sport and are convinced that our arguments will prevail for the good of football.