Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)
The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) is the administrative body for football, futsal and beach soccer in Europe, as well as Asia’s Israel and the Euroasian transcontinental countries of Russia, Turkey, Cyprus, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, and Kazakhstan. It is one of six continental confederations of world football’s governing body FIFA. UEFA consists of 55 national association members. Because of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, FIFA and UEFA suspended from FIFA and UEFA competitions all Russian teams, whether national representative teams or club teams.
UEFA represents the national football associations of Europe, runs nation and club competitions including the UEFA European Championship, UEFA Nations League, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, UEFA Europa Conference League, and UEFA Super Cup, and controls the prize money, regulations, and media rights to those competitions.
Henri Delaunay was the first general secretary and Ebbe Schwartz the first president. The current president is Aleksander Čeferin, a former Football Association of Slovenia president, who was elected as UEFA’s seventh president at the 12th Extraordinary UEFA Congress in Athens in September 2016, and automatically became a vice-president of the world body FIFA.
UEFA History and membership
UEFA was founded on 15 June 1954 in Basel, Switzerland after consultation between the Italian, French, and Belgian associations. At the founding meeting, 25 members were present. However, 6 other associations which were not present were still recognised as founding members, bringing the total of founding associations to 31. UEFA grew to more than 50 members by the mid-1990s, as new associations were born out of the fragmentation of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia into their constituent states.
UEFA’s main headquarters after its foundation were located in Paris, but moved to Bern in 1960. They moved to Nyon, Switzerland, in 1995, where they operated out of temporary offices until 1999 while the organisation’s current headquarters were under construction
UEFA membership coincides for the most part with recognition as a sovereign country in Europe (48 out of 55 members are sovereign UN member states), although there are some exceptions. One UN member state (Monaco) and one UN observer state (Vatican City) are not members. Some UEFA members are not sovereign states, but form part of a larger recognised sovereign state in the context of international law. These include England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales (constituent countries of the United Kingdom), Gibraltar (British Overseas Territory), the Faroe Islands (constituent country within the Kingdom of Denmark), and Kosovo (state with limited recognition), however, in the context of these countries, government functions concerning sport tend to be carried at the territorial level coterminous with the UEFA member entity.
Some UEFA members are transcontinental states (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkey) and others are considered part of Europe both culturally and politically (Cyprus). Countries which had been members of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) were also admitted to the European football association, such as Israel (because it had been banned from the AFC group in 1974) and Kazakhstan.
Some UEFA member associations allow teams from outside their association’s main territory to take part in their “domestic” competition. AS Monaco, for example, takes part in the French League (though a separate sovereign entity); Welsh clubs Cardiff City, Swansea City and Newport County A.F.C. participate in the English League; Derry City, situated in Northern Ireland, plays in the Republic of Ireland-based League of Ireland and the 7 native Liechtenstein teams play in the Swiss Leagues, as Liechtenstein has no internal league and only a cup competition.
National teams represented by UEFA are known for being successful throughout the history of the FIFA World Cup. Out of 21 tournaments so far, European teams have won 12 World Cup titles. Italy and Germany have four titles each, followed by France with two titles and England and Spain, winning once each. The national associations of these countries also are responsible for organizing the so-called “Big Five European Leagues”, consisting of Spain’s La Liga, England’s Premier League, Germany’s Bundesliga, Italy’s Serie A and France’s Ligue 1.
On 28 February 2022, due to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine and in accordance with a recommendation by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the UEFA suspended the participation of Russia. The Russian Football Union unsuccessfully appealed the UEFA ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which upheld the ban.
UEFA continental competitions
- UEFA European Championship
- UEFA Nations League
- UEFA European Under-21 Championship
- UEFA European Under-19 Championship
- UEFA European Under-17 Championship
- UEFA Women’s Championship
- UEFA Women’s Under-19 Championship
- UEFA Women’s Under-17 Championship
- UEFA Futsal Championship
- UEFA Under-19 Futsal Championship
- UEFA Women’s Futsal Championship
- UEFA Champions League
- UEFA Europa League
- UEFA Europa Conference League
- UEFA Super Cup
- UEFA Youth League
- UEFA Women’s Champions League
- UEFA Futsal Champions League
- CONMEBOL–UEFA Cup of Champions
- UEFA Regions’ Cup
UEFA runs official international competitions in Europe and some countries of Northern, Southwestern and Central Asia for national teams and professional clubs, known as UEFA competitions, some of which are regarded as the world’s most prestigious tournaments.
UEFA is the organiser of two of the most prestigious competitions in international football: The UEFA European Championship and the UEFA Nations League. The main competition for men’s national teams is the UEFA European Championship (also known as the Euro), started in 1958, with the first finals in 1960, and known as the European Nations Cup until 1964. The UEFA Nations League is the second tournament of UEFA and was introduced in 2018. The tournament largely replaced the international friendly matches previously played on the FIFA International Match Calendar. It will be played every two years.
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 as well as Women’s Under-19 and Women’s Under-17 Championships.
The top-ranked UEFA competition is the UEFA Champions League, which started in the 1992/93 season and gathers the top 1–4 teams of each country’s league (the number of teams depend on that country’s ranking and can be upgraded or downgraded); this competition was re-structured from a previous one that only gathered the top team of each country (held from 1955 to 1992 and known as the European Champion Clubs’ Cup or simply the European Cup).
A second, lower-ranked competition is the UEFA Europa League. This competition, for national knockout cup winners and high-placed league teams, was launched by UEFA in 1971 as a successor of both the former UEFA Cup and the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (also begun in 1955). A third competition, the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, which had started in 1960, was absorbed into the UEFA Cup (now UEFA Europa League) in 1999.
In December 2018, UEFA announced the creation of a third club competition, later named the UEFA Europa Conference League. The competition proper features 32 teams in 8 groups of 4, with a knockout round between the second placed teams in Europa Conference League and the third placed teams in the Europa League, leading to a final 16 knockout stage featuring the eight group winners. The first edition of the competition began in 2021.
In women’s football UEFA also conducts the UEFA Women’s Champions League for club teams. The competition was first held in 2001, and known as the UEFA Women’s Cup until 2009.
The UEFA Super Cup pits the winners of the Champions League against the winners of the Europa League (previously the winners of the Cup Winners’ Cup), and came into being in 1973.
The UEFA Intertoto Cup was a summer competition, previously operated by several Central European football associations, which was relaunched and recognised as official UEFA club competition by UEFA in 1995. The last Intertoto Cup took place in 2008.
The European/South American Cup was jointly organised with CONMEBOL between the Champions League and the Copa Libertadores winners.
Only five teams (Juventus, Ajax, Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Chelsea) have won each of the three main competitions (European Cup/UEFA Champions League, European Cup Winners’ Cup/UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League), a feat that is no longer possible for any team that did not win the Cup Winners’ Cup. There are currently eight teams throughout Europe that have won two of the three trophies; all but one have won the Cup Winners’ Cup, four require a win in the Champions League and four require a UEFA Europa League win.
Juventus of Italy was the first team in Europe—remaining the only one to date (2021)—to win all UEFA’s official championships and cups and, in commemoration of achieving that feat, have received The UEFA Plaque by the Union of European Football Associations on 12 July 1988.
UEFA’s premier futsal competition is the UEFA Futsal Cup, a tournament started in 2001 which replaced the former Futsal European Clubs Championship. This event, despite enjoying a long and well-established tradition in the European futsal community, dating back to 1984, was never recognised as official by UEFA.
FIFA World Rankings
FIFA Men’s Rankings (as of 31 March 2022)