UEFA Puts Priority on Controlling Club Debts

NYON, Switzerland — Creating a new system to regulate the finances of Europe's best and wealthiest clubs during the global financial crisis is UEFA's top priority in 2009.

European football's governing body said Friday it will set up a panel to recommend how to control the debts and spending of clubs which want to play in the lucrative Champions League.

UEFA's other main goals for the year are preparing for the 2012 European Championship and protecting the careers of teenage players, UEFA general secretary David Taylor said.

"It will never be far from the top of the agenda during the course of this year," Taylor said after a two-day meeting of UEFA's executive committee. "The indications we are getting from the vast majority of clubs are such that in these times of global economic crisis, these initiatives are very well timed."

Taylor said the UEFA executive discussed using fewer than eight stadiums for the Euro 2012 tournament, scheduled to be played in Poland and Ukraine. The preparations have been dogged by delays in stadium, transportation and hotel projects.

"We will not have more than eight stadiums. We may have less," said Taylor, adding it was an "unlikely scenario" for the venues to be split in a 5-3 or 6-2 share between the co-hosts.

The draw for the qualifying tournament will take place Feb. 7, 2010 in Poland, at a city to be chosen later.

Taylor said politicians and officials from Poland and Ukraine presented their progress reports to UEFA at a meeting Wednesday.

"Euro 2012 is very much a work in progress," he said, adding the major next decisions would be taken in May when the venues cities and match schedule are selected.

Taylor said UEFA was "optimistic" about starting to sell broadcast and sponsorship rights for Euro 2012 later this year in the middle of a financial downturn that has affected the co-hosts' ability to get credit to fund preparations.

UEFA, meanwhile, is determined to stop clubs jeopardizing their future by running up debts.

The executive committee accepted a progress report from an expert team of lawyers, academics and business consultants that is examining options such as salary caps to restrict clubs' spending and limit their debts.

Taylor said the group was working privately before UEFA revealed its preferred option for a system of issuing financial licenses to clubs. Having a license would be a condition of being allowed to play in the Champions League or Europa League, which succeeds the UEFA Cup next season.

"This is obviously a subject which is close to [clubs'] hearts," he said. "It is a complex and delicate matter. It will be a consultation. It won't be imposed from above."

UEFA will listen to the views of the European Club Association — an elite group of more than 130 clubs from each of the 53 football-playing nations in Europe — which has its first annual assembly Feb. 9-10 in Geneva.

Taylor said UEFA hopes to create a formal licensing panel at a March 9 meeting of its football strategy council, which includes representatives of clubs, European leagues and players' unions.

In other decisions, UEFA announced dates for the finals of the Champions League and Europa League in 2011 and 2012. The Champions League finals will be Saturday, May 28, 2011 at Wembley Stadium, London, and Saturday, May 19, 2012 at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany.

The Europa League finals will be Wednesday, May 18, 2011, at Lansdowne Road in Dublin, Ireland, and Wednesday, May 9, 2012, at the National Stadium in Bucharest, Romania.

UEFA also announced a list of 12 candidates standing for election to nine seats available on the UEFA Executive, which will serve from 2009-13.

Two current members — Geoffrey Thompson representing England, and Marios Lefkaritis of Cyprus — are standing for a further term.

The 10 new candidates are Tomas Gea (Andorra), Allan Hansen (Denmark), Nodar Akhalkatsi (Georgia), Theo Zwanziger (Germany), Abraham Luzon (Israel), Giancarlo Abete (Italy), Michael van Praag (Netherlands), Frantisek Laurinec (Slovakia), Liutauras Varanavicius (Lithuania) and Peter Rees (Wales).

Voting takes place March 25 at UEFA's Congress being held in Copenhagen, Denmark.

UEFA has also put forward four names for the European allocation of seats on the executive committee of world governing body FIFA, which has elections at its Congress to be held in early June in the Bahamas. They are: Michel D'Hooghe (Belgium), Marios Lefkaritis (Cyprus), Senes Erzik (Turkey) and Vitaly Mutko (Russia).