This article provides an insight into how UEFA’s “good governance” reform was established and the intended outcomes.
Effective governance is a key element in ensuring that football governing bodies function properly. In order to understand the latest governance developments undertaken by UEFA, it is helpful to take a step back and look at the good governance reforms adopted unanimously by the 55 UEFA member associations at the 41st Ordinary UEFA Congress in Helsinki on 5 April 20171. Those reforms, which were proposed by the UEFA president, Aleksander Čeferin, as part of his election manifesto, and which had already been discussed during the Top Executive Programme (TEP) meetings held in January and February 2017, entailed a series of amendments to the UEFA Statutes, the most important of which can be summarised as follows:
Introduction of term limits for the UEFA president and the members of the UEFA Executive Committee. According to the amended version of Article 22(1) of the UEFA Statutes, the UEFA president and the members of the UEFA Executive Committee may now serve for a maximum of three four-year terms.2
Requirement that candidates for (re-)election to the UEFA Executive Committee must hold an active office (president, vice-president, general secretary or chief executive officer) in their respective national association.3
Granting of two full member positions on the UEFA Executive Committee to representatives of the European Club Association (ECA). Following that decision, one year later, the 13th Extraordinary UEFA Congress, held in Geneva on 20 September 2017, decided to grant one full member position on the UEFA Executive Committee to a representative of the European Leagues (EL). Therefore, the current Article 21(1) of the UEFA Statutes reflects the latest composition of the UEFA Executive Committee. 4
Strengthening of the UEFA Governance and Compliance Committee through the appointment of two additional, independent members to the previously three-member body.5
Inclusion of a specific article to ensure that venues for all UEFA competitions are selected in a fully objective manner through a transparent bidding process. 6
Inclusion of a specific article to make ethics and good governance a statutory objective of UEFA.7
Authorisation for experts from national associations to chair UEFA committees.
These important reforms were welcomed by the European commissioner for education, culture, youth and sport, Tibor Navracsics, who expressed satisfaction that UEFA was committed to embedding good governance in its activities.8
Obviously, these good governance reforms were extremely important for UEFA and its member associations. However, as in every pyramid organisation, changes were also expected at the basis of the pyramid, i.e. at national association level.
AN OVERVIEW of the Good governance principles for UEFA member associations
Shortly after the above-mentioned statutory amendments had come into force on 1 July 2017, the UEFA National Associations Committee, at its meeting of 7 September 2018, concluded that there was a need to enhance good governance at national level too. Consequently, it decided to create a working group to come up with a set of good governance principles/managerial rules which would not necessarily be linked only to statutory provisions but also to the strategy of each association. The recommendations of the working group would be submitted for consideration first to the National Associations Committee and, subsequently, to the UEFA Governance and Compliance Committee. The goal was to have a set of principles that the Executive Committee could endorse and issue as recommendations to the UEFA member associations. It was agreed and underlined that the fundamental principle of the organisational autonomy of each national association would be preserved and respected in the process.
The National Associations Committee working group, composed of representatives of six UEFA member associations, met twice during the 2017/18 season. Before preparing its recommendations, the working group examined the various reports and resolutions of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe9, Article 15 of the FIFA Statutes10 and the UEFA HatTrick IV Regulations, according to which UEFA member associations were entitled to an annual solidarity payment of €750,000 to cover running costs and good governance projects in any of the areas defined in the relevant menu card11.
The outcome of the working group’s work was a set of ten good governance principles (a copy of which is set out at the bottom of this article ). These were endorsed by the UEFA Governance and Compliance Committee before being unanimously approved by the National Associations Committee at its meeting of 17 May 2018.
The Executive Committee, at its meeting of 27 September, not only approved the ten good governance principles aimed at strengthening the daily work, policies, visions and strategies of UEFA’s member associations, but also agreed that they should be linked to HatTrick V incentive payments to encourage the associations to fully adopt them.
The HatTrick programme was launched ahead of UEFA EURO 2004 and is entirely funded by revenue from the European Football Championship. It was established to provide financial support to UEFA’s member associations in order to develop and foster football at all levels. The programme has evolved into three core areas: knowledge sharing, education and financial support. The financial support is provided in four-year cycles following each EURO tournament. The funding begins with an initial contribution aimed at developing and improving football in general, followed by an annual solidarity payment to assist with specific project administration costs. Each association is entitled to the same amount of funding. In accordance with the above mentioned decision of the UEFA Executive Committee to link the adoption of the good governance principles at national level with some incentive payments, national associations can expect to see a specific funding on good governance in the next edition of the HatTrick programme (i.e. HatTrick V).12
The ten UEFA good governance principles are comprehensive and wide-ranging and cover the broad spectrum of a football association’s activities and operations.
The attached detailed analysis of each of the ten principles was sent to all UEFA member associations by circular letter (No. 58/2018) on 12 October 2018 (see beneath this article). In summary, the ten good governance principles are:
- Clear strategy: In addition to running their daily business, associations should have a clear, transparent business strategy, which should be the result of an inclusive internal and external strategy development process. The strategy should be evaluated on a regular basis and, for the sake of transparency, be published.
- Statutes: In the same way as the UEFA good governance reforms of 2017, the UEFA member associations are encouraged to revise and modernise their statutes. In this respect, particular attention is placed on:
the recommendation to establish fixed terms and/or age limits for presidents and board members, to avoid excessive power being concentrated in single persons through a system of checks and balances; and,
to ensure balanced gender representation not only on the association’s board but also in the corresponding league and club bodies.
- Stakeholder involvement: National associations are called to recognise and consult regularly their various stakeholders, both those that belong to the football family (i.e. clubs, leagues, players, coaches, referees and supporters) and other interest groups such as political bodies, media and relevant NGOS who are important partners for the overall development of football at national level. As mentioned in the first part of this article, UEFA has decided to include representatives of the European Club Association and the European Leagues as full members of its Executive Committee. In this respect, national associations are free to decide on the precise degree of stakeholder involvement, be it at board/executive committee, standing committee or working group level.
- Promotion of ethical values, integrity and good governance: National associations are invited to include ethical values, integrity rules and good governance as priority objectives in their statutes. Moreover, with respect to ethical matters, associations are free to decide whether they want to address them in their disciplinary regulations or by means of a specific code of ethics
- Professionalism of committee structures: An association’s committees also have a very important role; therefore, not only are clear stipulations regarding the work, responsibilities and composition of every committee strongly recommended, but also fair gender representation and a balance of interests.
- Administration: The key element here is to guarantee that the administration, i.e. those who run the association’s day-to-day business, is protected from undue political interference.
- Accountability: Under this heading, UEFA addresses the need to safeguard national associations from mismanagement. Therefore, double signature systems, proper risk management programmes, appropriate tender processes, budgeting, and definition of duties and responsibilities are all deemed as essential. Focusing, in particular, to the double signature systems, the idea behind is that important documents cannot be signed off only by a single person bur rather require two persons co-signing them, for instance by the President of a national association and one of his directors. With such a procedure in place, not only there is a higher accountability since more than one person appears as a signatory, but also there is a higher degree of protection for the top management.
- Transparency in financial matters and corporate documents: The need for transparency is highlighted, especially in financial matters. National associations are therefore called upon to have transparent financial structures and strict financial controls, both internal and external. Moreover, for the sake of transparency towards the various stakeholders, certain documents should be made publicly available.
- Compliance: UEFA also recommends that associations implement a strong compliance policy and culture to ensure that statutes and regulations are adhered to.
- Volunteer programmes: Considering that an association’s overall goal should be to stimulate participation in football, associations are recommended to have effective grassroots and volunteer programmes to boost active involvement, especially among young people.
To support the implementation of these ten good governance principles at national level, UEFA will organise regional workshops in the coming years. These workshops will aim at analysing in detail the ten principles and at giving the opportunity to national associations to share knowledge and good governance practices. In parallel to that, upon request, UEFA will be supporting individually any national association that wishes to go through a good governance reform process, including any statutory revision process.
In conclusion, in the last few years UEFA has set good governance – both from a corporate point of view and at national association level – as a priority. It must also be borne in mind that good governance is not something that can be achieved or not achieved, but rather an ongoing process of professionalisation and better management over time.
Good governance principles for UEFA member associations (in FULL)
1. Clear strategy
It is a good governance principle that, nowadays, national associations should not only run day-to-day business but also have in place a clear business strategy. A published strategic plan should ideally be implemented for both the short and medium term, e.g. for one to five years, and should be the result of an inclusive internal and external process. It is recommended to evaluate the strategic objectives on an annual basis, to ensure that the strategy corresponds to the national association’s statutes and, for the sake of transparency, to publicly communicate it, ideally through the national association website. Without a strategic plan with measurable objectives, the President and Executive Body/Board cannot be properly held accountable by the members. The development of a clear strategy should also be seen as an opportunity for both elite and amateurs to consult and identify common goals.
National associations are encouraged to revise and modernise their statutes. Desirable minimum requirements are outlined in UEFA Circular letter no. 11/2009 and certain mandatory provisions to be implemented at national level may be found in the relevant provisions of the FIFA and UEFA Statutes. It would be recommended to establish fixed terms for both the President and Board/Executive Committee members (e.g. term and/or age limits). In addition, a system of “checks and balances” should be in place to avoid excessive concentration of power in one person while, at the same time, adequate arrangements should ensure continuity in the work of relevant bodies (for example, partial renewals to have at least one third of members in office at each renewal).
Executive Committees/Boards of the national associations should have balanced gender representation (diversity) and it is, therefore, recommended to have a fair representation of women in these bodies and, ideally, in the corresponding bodies of leagues and clubs as well.
The statutes should provide for a clear separation of powers (e.g. legislative/executive, executive/administrative, and independent judicial bodies), a definition of rights and obligations of the members, a clear indication of responsibilities and decision-making bodies, as well as minimum provisions related to ethics. The statutes should also guarantee a democratic process with free elections, stakeholder consultation, regular general assemblies and definition of roles and powers of the President, Board/executive committee and administrative body.
Finally, it is recommended that the revision process for statutes takes place in specific working groups (where necessary including FIFA and UEFA).
3. Stakeholder involvement
Stakeholders (i.e. clubs, leagues, players, coaches, referees, supporters) but also other interest groups, such as political bodies, media and relevant NGOs, are important partners for the overall development of football at national level. Therefore, it is recommended to recognise and consult them on a regular basis. National associations are free to decide on the precise degree of stakeholder involvement, be it at board/executive committee, standing committee or working group level and stakeholders are expected to work closely with the national associations in order to support mutually agreed objectives. In countries where professional football exists, social dialogue should be formalised and national associations are expected to ensure that the minimum requirements for standard player contracts are implemented at national level, as unanimously agreed by the XXXVI Ordinary UEFA Congress, in Istanbul, on 22 March 2012. It could also be assessed, whether the relationship between professional and grass- roots football could be based on a contractual agreement, in the framework of which the reciprocal activities are being negotiated.
4. Promotion of ethical values, integrity and good governance
Ethical values and good governance should be incorporated as statutory objectives. There should be an overall strengthening of ethical principles, in particular, the principles of integrity, honesty, fiduciary responsibility, loyalty, and sportsmanship. Rules should be put in place to avoid, or mitigate (e.g. through disclosure), conflicts of interests, and to tackle the threat of corruption, whether it be as a result of offering or accepting gifts, bribes, or any other abuse of office. There should be robust internal control procedures to combat such phenomena and, in particular, to ensure that all bidding and voting is always transparent and compliant. These principles must apply to everybody, e.g. members, stakeholders, staff and volunteers.
National associations are invited to specifically address ethics matters either in their disciplinary rules or via a specific Code of Ethics. Furthermore, the bodies applying such rules must be protected from any form of undue pressure or political interference, meaning that the independence of these bodies, as well as their secretariats, must be guaranteed.
Finally, national associations are invited to invest in relevant communication, training and education programmes (e.g. compliance/ ethics/integrity training, women’s leadership programme).
5. Professionalism of committee structures
The standing committees of national associations play an important role as they contribute to the development of the national game. Consequently, national associations should ensure that their statutes and regulations contain clear definitions regarding the work, responsibilities, and composition of the committees, including appointment rules and members’ qualifications.
The number of committees and frequency of meetings should correspond to the real needs of each national association. In addition to the independent judicial bodies (which are mandatory), national associations are encouraged to have at least the following commit- tees in place: competitions, women’s football, grassroots and finance. Due consideration should be given to the reality of each country and the structure of each national association.
National associations are also encouraged to have a fair gender representation and balance of interests in their standing commit- tees and to appoint external technical staff or experts, if needed.
Finally, it is of outmost importance that a clear mechanism/procedure is in place so as to allow a proper communication flow between the committees and the relevant board/executive committee.
The administration of each national association is the body that delivers the day-to-day business. To guarantee a high quality of work, it is recommended to protect the administration from undue political influence on operational matters and daily decisions. More- over, it is recommended to have an open, clear and transparent hiring process, to ensure that the most competent candidates are recruited to work in the administration and, in so doing, to protect the overall interests of the national association.
As the image of the administration reflects the image of the national association, there should be clear guidelines/regulations in place for the use of social media, confidentiality matters, accepting/offering gifts etc.
To enhance accountability it is recommended to establish a clear process regarding signatory rights in national associations. In particular, for certain documents of major importance, it is recommended to implement a “double signature system” in order to ensure that important contracts cannot be signed off by a single person.
As national associations may be exposed to financial losses in view of the various commercial businesses they run, it is highly recommended to have in place an adequate insurance. This is in line with the general need for a proper risk management programme to be in place.
For sales or purchases above a certain limit, national associations should envisage having tender processes to provide greater account- ability and better protect their own financial interests. In defining the applicable thresholds, the specificity of each country would be taken into account.
Finally, internally, there should be a clear definition of budgets and responsibilities/competence for each division and unit.
8. Transparency in financial matters and corporate documents
Transparency is one of the most important principles of good governance, especially when it comes to financial matters. A national association which is transparent will have a better image and will protect itself more effectively from any accusation of mismanagement or undue influence. This is appealing, both to the general public and to business partners, such as sponsors but also political bodies (both as potential funders and regulators). For this reason, it is strongly recommended to have transparent structures and strict financial controls, both at internal (i.e. the internal control system, including internal audit) and external (i.e. independent company) level.
In addition to the audited annual report and accounts, other related as well as relevant corporate documents should be made publicly available where possible, ideally on the national association website, provided such documents do not conflict with the overarching interest of the national associations or data protection law. It is recommended to include specific sections where the following documents are made available for download: statutes, regulations, strategy, background info on President/GS/Board members, committees composition, clear explanations of General Assembly and other bodies’ key decisions (and ideally also meeting agendas), media releases, circular letters, annual activity report and financial information (as provided to members), sustainability report, procedure and forms for registration of intermediaries.
Finally, organisational structures and contact details of national associations’ members (e.g. regional associations, clubs etc.) should be available on the website and updated when necessary.
National associations are always expected to have a system and resources that check that they comply with their own statutes and regulations, as well as all general civil and criminal laws to which they are subject.
All national associations should have a compliance policy and culture. Policies such as respect, transparency, health and safety, equality/ diversity, protection of minors, match-fixing, doping, human rights, fair play and solidarity, and the fight against racism, discrimination, and data protection are of major importance and should be reflected in the national association’s strategy and operations. From time to time, UEFA invites its national associations to adopt certain campaigns or policies with specific resolutions approved by the UEFA Congress (e.g. resolutions “European football united against racism” and “European football united for the integrity of the game” unanimously adopted respectively by the XXXVII Ordinary UEFA Congress on 24 May 2013 in London and the XXXVIII Ordinary UEFA Congress held on 27 March 2014 in Astana).
10. Volunteer programmes
As the overall goal of all national associations should be to stimulate participation in football, it is recommended to have in place volunteer programmes that will increase the number of people active in all different aspects of the game, especially young people. Not only will this lead to a better image of national associations but it will also establish a stronger foundation for the future development of football. Especially the significance of honorary engagements at the grassroots level of football should be emphasized and acknowledged by the national associations.