Garcia, Borja. (2007) UEFA and the European Union, from confrontation to co-operation? In: UNSPECIFIED, Montreal, Canada. (Unpublished)
The governance structures of football have evolved overtime relatively independent of public authorities. The so-called pyramid of European football has been traditionally formed by the game’s world-wide governing body (FIFA) at the apex, the continental governing body (UEFA) in the middle and the national football associations, national football leagues and clubs at the bottom. This structure, however, has been challenged in the last two decades by a combination of massive commercialisation of the game, EU decisions aimed at liberalising football as a market-place, and the new demands of the stakeholders involved in the governance of professional football. This paper investigates the relationship between UEFA, as European football’s governing body, and the EU. It assesses the evolution of UEFA as a football governing body since the Bosman ruling (1995) until current initiatives such as the rules on locally-trained players. The paper focuses especially on the interaction between UEFA and the EU in the regulation of the footballers’ market, one of the most contentious interventions of European institutions in football. I argue that UEFA’s attitude towards the EU has changed completely in the last ten years. Whilst the EU was seen as a threat for UEFA in 1995, it is now considered a ‘long term strategic partner’. Three reasons can be identified for UEFA’s evolution. First, a pragmatic necessity to adapt to the application of EU law to football. Second, a change of the organisation’s philosophy. UEFA has modified slightly its core beliefs and policy objectives, focusing more in its public duty of taking care of football as a whole, not just the professional competitions. Third, a strategic vision to preserve its own position within the governance structures of football. This paper draws almost entirely on empirical research conducted through elite interviews and the review of official documents.
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