Good morning ladies and gentlemen.
Your Excellency, Turkish Minister of Youth and Sports, Dr. Mehmet Kasapoğlu; Dear ECA Members; Dear FIFA and UEFA Representatives; Dear CAF President Motsepe; Dear CEOs and clubs; Dear fan groups who are very welcome with us.
Our Honorary guest Stefano Domenicali, CEO of Formula 1; Colleagues and friends of the football family.
On behalf of the entire ECA Executive Board, I wish you a very warm welcome to the 28th General Assembly of the European Club Association here in Istanbul. I am honoured to be here. It is really amazing to see you all, our General Assemblies mean so much to me.
First, I would like to pause to remember Michel Verschueren, who passed earlier this month. Michel was one of the great leaders in European football. He did so much for the ECA. We will miss him greatly.
Welcome to Istanbul. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. There is a wonderful mix of culture and history, a bridge between East & West. Turkish people are always so welcoming and they love football. The fans have so much passion. It is always difficult to play Turkish teams here.
The ECA feels at home in Turkey. We have 5 ECA clubs, and we are privileged to have Ali Koc as a member of our Executive Board. We had the European club competition draws and also our ECA Board meeting here in August; and we will be returning for the Champions League final next year. I hope I will return with my team!
I would like to start by thanking the Turkish Youth and Sports Minister Dr. Mehmet Kasapoğlu. Your hospitality is wonderful, and this venue – the Çırağan Palace Kempinski – is incredible. Thank you for your speech and for treating us like family.
Thank you to FIFA President Infantino, to UEFA President Ceferin and to IOC President Bach for your kind words. Everyone has talked about our common interests, teamwork, and looking after the whole football ecosystem. This is very important.
I also thank our honorary guest, and my good friend Stefano Domenicali, CEO of Formula 1. We really appreciate you coming in the middle of the season between races. I remember the first time we met, I was inspired by your vision, your ideas and your project. You have made Formula 1 more than a sport. You have created a lifestyle and a brand. Entertainment is at the heart of everything you do. Formula 1 has an amazing leader. I am sure we will be inspired by what you will tell us later today.
It is hard to believe it is only 6 months since we met in Vienna, and only 12 months since our first General Assembly under our new ECA team in Geneva. Looking back at that time, it is amazing to see how far we have come. We should all be proud of what we have achieved today.
Our Vice-Chairmen and our Executive Board work so hard for the ECA and European football. Day and night, whenever the ECA needs them, they are here for you. I would like to thank them on your behalf, for their leadership, their involvement, and most important their unity. Thank you also to the ECA Executive, to Charlie Marshall, José Luis Andrade and our Management team, you do a great job.
However, we have only taken the first step in the ECA’s new era. We have much more work to do. This is only the beginning of the new ECA, and it’s exciting. Remember, this General Assembly is for ALL our members. Clubs of all shapes and sizes. We care about you and your best interests. We want to hear your feedback, your comments, your ideas. Let’s be creative, let’s work together. You are what makes the ECA great.
To kick off our General Assembly, I will walk us through the 5 strategic priorities we set ourselves in Geneva a year ago. We made various commitments, and we are delivering results. European football clubs are stronger as a result.
Our first priority is to ensure financial stability within European football. The planned Recovery Fund is critical for our clubs. COVID affected all of us. Clubs of all sizes. I have spoken to President Ceferin about the fund. He promised we will find a solution together.
The new financial sustainability rules are a positive development. The rules control costs. They encourage investment and new investors. They will help secure football’s sustainability. But we need to be careful; dangerous levels of debt and magical equity deals are not a sustainable path. We need to think long term, not short term.
Thank you to Michael Verschueren, the team, and UEFA for all their work in this area. The ECA will continue to make financial stability a key priority.
Our second priority is building stronger ECA relationships. As you can see, there are many stakeholders from across football and other sports with us in-person and online today. We are working hard at building new relationships. I truly appreciate CAF President Motsepe and CONCACAF President Montagliani coming all this way to join us. It means so much that you are here, thank you. We should be proud that the voice of our clubs is at the heart of European football decision-making.
Our Joint Venture with UEFA is the most important development in European football in recent times. It is founded on a trusted relationship and an example of progressive reform. As I said a year ago, the clubs building a stronger relationship with UEFA was key. Our Joint Venture is a great success, and today, I am pleased to announce that UEFA and ECA have signed a Letter of Intent to enter into a new MOU through to 2030. This LOI will make our partnership even stronger – we have re-built and formed a partnership of equals. Clubs are more engaged. Clubs have a bigger voice. Our commercial value has grown. Thank you to President Ceferin.
The ECA has also worked closely with UEFA on the new post-2024 men’s competition format and access. There will be more exciting games. The competitions will be more inclusive. Our revenues will grow. We have already seen this in France and UK. And in the US our growth is over 150%, with Spanish rights still to be sold. We plan to work with Paramount+ and all our other media partners and rights-holders on how to reach new audiences, be innovative and stay relevant.
It is also fantastic that more clubs will experience the magic of European competition. We saw the passion of the Frankfurt and the Roma fans when they won the Europa League and Europa Conference League in May. It was amazing.
Revenue distribution is the next important topic for European football. The ECA has always promised to put collective interests above individual interests to protect our clubs and the ECA. Distribution has to be fair. We want all of the men’s and women’s competitions to grow. And everyone within European football should be doing more to benefit the whole game.
The ECA will continue to build positive relationships with all stakeholders. FIFA, UEFA, CAF, the confederations, the leagues, the national associations, and the fans. We will also continue to engage non-ECA clubs and other important stakeholders, especially the European Commission.
Our relationship with organizations such as the IOC, Formula 1 and Harvard Business School show that the ECA is open-minded and pushing forward ideas. We are also exploring new business models in digital, tech, entertainment and the metaverse. We need always to be creative and think out of the box; standing still is going backwards.
Our third priority is creating better ECA member benefits. I hope you can see that the ECA is working hard for you – our members. Our clubs have access to legal, financial and commercial services. We are also launching a medical committee which will benefit everyone. These are fantastic resources.
Thank you to Aki Riihilahti for driving our Club Management Programme which involves 108 different clubs, and we are inspiring the next generation with our Young Talent Programme. Thank you to Edwin van der Sar for leading our youth projects.
Our new Sustainability & Environment group led by Niclas Carlén improves football’s impact on our environment. This committee is so important. The environment is critical to our future.
We promised that the new ECA would focus on our members more, and we are delivering.
Our fourth priority is Diversity & Inclusion. At our General Assembly in Geneva we made a commitment that we would broaden our membership. I am pleased we have made progress. Thank you to Lina Souloukou for all your work.
The ECA Network is an important example of this. Around 160 European clubs have been invited to benefit from the ECA services. As a result, we are more inclusive. And we show that the ECA cares for all clubs. As I have said before, the ECA’s door is always open for you.
The Women’s game continues to develop. As we promised, the new ECA membership for women’s clubs begins next year. The EUROS this summer were also a massive success. Congratulations to UEFA and to the winners, England. And thank you to all our female players, you are an inspiration.
However, we need to be realistic. Women’s football needs major investment to continue to grow. Thank you to Claire Bloomfield, Bianca Rech and Jean-Michel Aulas for leading the ECA in this area and for their hard work.
Our fifth priority is renewed ECA spirit & values. Over the past year we have shown the power of the ECA when we work together. We should not focus on the past, but people should not forget where we came from a year ago. Some people tried to separate us. However, under the new ECA, we are more creative; more collective; more connected.
We are talking together. We are sharing ideas. We are listening. We are doing and delivering more. And the ECA is stronger than ever.
This is the spirit that will shape the future of European club football. We need to drive forward. Contribute your ideas, get involved, be creative, be engaged.
We are one family. This is your ECA. This is your home.
European Club Association