The Union of European Football Associations, almost always referred to by the acronym UEFA (pronounced you-AY-fuh), is the administrative and controlling body for European football. It represents the national football associations of Europe, running nine national and four club competitions in Europe, controlling the prize-money, regulations and media rights to those competitions. It is one of the six continental confederations of FIFA.
Of the confederations, it is by far the strongest in terms of wealth and influence over the global game. Virtually all of the world's top players play in European league because of the salaries available from the world's wealthiest football clubs, particularly in England, Italy, Spain and Germany. Many of the world's strongest national sides are in UEFA. Of the 32 available spots in the 2006 World Cup, 14 are allocated to UEFA national teams.
UEFA was founded on June 15, 1954 in Basel, Switzerland following discussions between the French, Italian and Belgian FAs. The headquarters was in Paris until 1959 when the organisation moved to Bern. Henri Delaunay was the first General Secretary and Ebbe Schwartz the president. Its administrative centre since 1995 is in Nyon, Switzerland. It was initially made up of twenty-five national associations; currently there are 52 associations.
UEFA General Secretaries
Called Chief Executive since December 1999:
- Henri Delaunay
- Pierre Delaunay
- Hans Bangerter (1960 - 1989)
- Gerhard Aigner
- Ebbe Schwartz
- Gustav Wiederkehr
- Artemio Franchi
- Jacques Georges
- Lennart Johansson (1990-)
UEFA, as a representative of the national associations, has had a number of bruising clashes with the EU. In the 1990s the issues of television rights and especially international transfers (the Bosman ruling) have had to undergo some major changes to remain in line with European law.
The main competition for men's national teams is the European Football Championship, started in 1958 and known as the European Nations Cup until 1964. UEFA also runs national competitions at Under-21 , Under-19 and Under-17 levels. For women's national teams, UEFA operates the UEFA Women's Championship for senior national sides and the UEFA Women's Under-19 Championship at under-19 level.
UEFA also runs the two main club competitions in Europe: the UEFA Champions League, for national league champions, was first held in 1955, and was known as the European Champion Clubs Cup until 1991; and the UEFA Cup, for national knockout cup winners and high-placed league teams, was launched by UEFA in 1971 as a successor to the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (also begun in 1955). A third competition, the Cup Winners' Cup, started in 1960 and was absorbed into the UEFA Cup in 1999. Only four teams have won each of the three competitions, a feat that is no longer possible..
The UEFA Super Cup, which pits the winners of the Champions League against the winners of the UEFA Cup (previously the winners of the Cup Winners' Cup), came into being in 1973.
The UEFA Intertoto Cup is a summer competition, previously operated by several Central European football associations, which was relaunched by UEFA in 1995 as a qualifying competition for the UEFA Cup. Recently, UEFA launched the UEFA Regions Cup, for semi-professional teams. UEFA also conducts the UEFA Women's Cup for women's club teams.
The European/South American Cup is jointly organised with CONMEBOL between the Champions League and the Copa Libertadores winners.