The year 2013 promises to be fascinating for UEFA and its member national associations – with football's well-being and essential values remaining at the forefront of the European governing body's philosophies and actions.
Following a resoundingly successful UEFA EURO 2012, the course is firmly set towards the next two editions of Europe's top national competition. Preparations will be continuing for UEFA EURO 2016 – the 24-team final round which will take place in France, with the launch of the tournament logo and branding scheduled for this spring.
The opening months of the year will also see the bidding process defined for UEFA EURO 2020, which will be held across Europe following a decision by the UEFA Executive Committee last month.
UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino said: "As far as the bidding process is concerned, this will be determined in the next couple of months by the UEFA National Team Competitions Committee, and then presented to the Executive Committee for ratification, most probably at its meeting in March 2013. What is clear is that [UEFA EURO 2020] will not be in one or two countries, but in several cities in Europe. How many cities is still to be decided."
London will be the focal point in May for UEFA activities on and off the field. The great English city will host the UEFA Women's Champions League final at Stamford Bridge on 23 May, before the XXXVII Ordinary UEFA Congress brings together UEFA's member associations on 24 May to discuss and vote on key European football issues.
The UEFA Champions League final will then be staged at Wembley Stadium – for the second time in three years – on 25 May. The English Football Association (FA) will be welcoming the football family to help the world's oldest football federation celebrate its 150th anniversary.
Financial fair play is already taking effect across European club football, as UEFA consolidates measures designed to safeguard the stability and health of the game and put an end to the financial excesses which have caused problems for a number of clubs across the continent in recent times. The financial fair play measures involve a multi-year assessment, enabling a longer-term view to be formed, within the wider context of European club football.
Clubs participating in UEFA competitions have had their transfer and employee payables monitored since the summer of 2011, and the break-even assessment covering the financial years ending 2012 and 2013 will be assessed during 2013/14.
"We will never go back," said UEFA President Michel Platini. "We took the decision to introduce financial fair play some years ago with the unanimous support of all European clubs, the national associations, the politicians. This is something that is very positive, which we will continue."
Additional assistant referees have been deployed in European club competitions since they were introduced into the Laws of the Game last summer, and they will be used at this summer's UEFA European Under-21 Championship final round in Israel. Europe's national associations have been appraised of the benefits of the system, which gives referees extra support, especially in penalty-area situations.
The fight against match-fixing and corruption remains a priority for UEFA, the UEFA President and the UEFA Executive Committee in the years ahead – and UEFA considers it a major responsibility to fight against this negative phenomenon to eliminate it from football.
UEFA will be continuing to monitor about 30,000 matches across Europe through its betting fraud detection system, and will carry on promoting the Executive Committee's support for the introduction of sporting fraud as a criminal offence in national legislations throughout Europe.
The women's game continues to thrive, with increasing numbers of women and girls either playing in, or being involved in, football activities. UEFA's women's football development programme (WFDP) is helping the associations to bolster their women's soccer structures, and the 2013 UEFA Women's EURO in Sweden is an eagerly awaited tournament featuring many of the finest female footballers from around the continent.
On the men's and boy's front, the U21 final round heads an impressive list of national-team events down to U17 level, showcasing the stars of tomorrow. The same can be said for UEFA's new youth club competition, the UEFA Youth League, which will kick off later this year.
Healthy roots mean a healthy body, and the European football family's grassroots activities will culminate in the fourth UEFA Grassroots Day on 22 May in London and at venues across UEFA's European member association countries – underlining UEFA's commitment to tending the grassroots and promoting the idea of football for all.
Over more than 50 years, the national associations have been the cornerstone of the European game and a key component of UEFA's work and vision. UEFA programmes such as HatTrick, KISS and the Study Group Scheme will continue to give sporting and infrastructure assistance, with expertise being exchanged for the overall well-being of European soccer. The London Congress will provide another opportunity for UEFA and its members to show their unity and strength in driving European football forward.
UEFA pledges never to yield in its efforts to combat violence and racism. "There is no place for discrimination of any kind in football stadiums," said Mr Platini. "We will therefore continue to fight it relentlessly with all our strength, together with our partners and all those who share our belief that diversity makes us richer, not poorer."
UEFA's social responsibility portfolio reflects how football can unite, heal wounds from conflict, and enthrall young and old. Mr Platini explained: "Football is enormously popular everywhere, in all corners of society, which gives it not only the opportunity but also the responsibility to try and help make the world a better place."
At the onset of another fascinating year, UEFA remains firmly established as one of the key players in European football – and, in accordance with its values, will pass through 2013 with the motto 'football first' at the heart of its work on behalf of the game.
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