Tue. Dec 6th, 2022

Brussels, 9 November 2022

Ms Mariya Gabriel delivers a keynote speech, via pre-recorded video message at the Convention on the Future of European Football UEFA

“Check against delivery”

Dear President,

Dear members of the European football community,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am honoured to address you at this final plenary meeting of the Convention on the Future of European Football which comes, I believe, at a very appropriate moment.

Besides sports, you know that Culture represents an important part of my portfolio. Let me quote a great European film director, poet and writer, the Italian Pier Paolo Pasolini, who had a huge passion for football and who wrote that “football is the last sacred ritual of our time”. For sure, sports – and football in particular – is part of the fabric of our European society: of our European way of life. All those who have responsibilities in it must handle it with care.

In the last two and a half years, several difficulties have hit European football, as well as many economic and social sectors and of course, all European citizens

The first one – the COVID 19 pandemic – and its impact has been enormous on sports, on our economies, societies, on our lives of course.  Football matches were suspended for many months and when leagues and championships resumed, stadiums in Europe offered a surreal spectacle with their emptiness. What a relief it was to see again fans cheering and supporting live their teams at the matches of the EURO 2020 in June and July last year.

A second difficulty, – specific to football, but with potential repercussions on the whole European sports sector and its model – was the attempt of creating new competition models.

When it comes to its future, it is important for decisions affecting football to build on the views and interests of all stakeholders including football federations, domestic leagues, clubs, players and fans. To always defend projects which are at the core of the way sports is organised in Europe. And here, the Commission will always promote this values-based European Sports Model.

This is also one of the priorities of the third Arrangement for Cooperation between the Commission and UEFA which has been signed recently; looking forward to working together to express our shared values for equality, inclusion and solidarity.

This cooperation helps us in our efforts to make sports – and football in particular – available to all. Let me thank UEFA’s members and teams for their support to our HealthyLifeStyle4all initiative and their role as a partner of the European Week of Sports, on which we can build to promote football and sports widely among Europeans and especially young people.

Young people were in our focus during this 2022 European Year of Youth. And count on us to continue our efforts towards its positive and long-lasting legacy. Football is of course a great way of engaging with young people, but it is so much more than physical activity: it can teach new skills, such as teamwork and fair play, and contribute to their mental wellbeing.

Also, it is extremely meaningful and symbolic that this Arrangement will last until the end in 2025, after the Women’s European Championship. Women’s football is well alive and kicking today.

It is refreshing to see more and more young girls playing football in the pitches of our cities and rural areas. It is also important to keep growing the game and at the same time working at 360 degrees on gender balance and representation issues in football. And this is particularly in line with the work done by the High-Level Group on Gender Equality in Sports I established a year ago. I am happy that this is one of the aspects you deal with during this Convention.

Let me close my intervention by making my own the words of the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano “’I am attracted to football’s capacity for beauty”. Many Europeans feel the same. Football is a beautiful game, when it is played with and for values, inclusion, openness, and respect.

You have a great responsibility, and I am sure you will be up to the challenge: we are ready to continue our support.

Thank you for your attention.

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