NYON: The UEFA Football Board, featuring a distinguished cast of football legends and elite-level coaches, met yesterday, Monday 22 April, at the House of European Football in Nyon.

Chaired by UEFA football advisor Luís Figo, yesterday’s meeting focused on officiating matters such as coach and player behaviour towards match officials, time-wasting and VAR.

The Board consensually acknowledged that the behaviour of players and coaches towards match officials in several recent instances has become a critical issue and does not contribute positively to the good image of the game. The members are united in their belief that this issue needs to be addressed as firmly as possible. The Board concluded that it is important for coaches to set the example for their teams and for the mobbing of officials to be eliminated. Referees are an essential element of football and should be protected from all forms of abuse. What happens in the professional game has the power to influence the whole pyramid; recruiting and retaining referees is highly dependent on the positive examples set in competitions followed by millions of fans. It was agreed that a firm disciplinary approach is justified, but that it would also be advisable to improve the transparency of communication between match officials and coaches to inspire mutual understanding and respect.

The Board also discussed the situations of players faking injuries to gain an unfair advantage, waste time and disrupt the flow of the game, and suggested, among other things, that a campaign led by key players should be launched to shed light on the unfairness of this behaviour and discourage it.

The Board concluded that effective measures should be implemented to limit the fragmentation of the rhythm of matches.

The session ended with discussions regarding VAR and the Board recommended working towards ensuring its use is more consistent, transparent and understandable for players, coaches and fans. VAR should be seen as a tool helping referees and its interventions should not be perceived as a negative judgement on referees themselves. It is clear as that not everything on the pitch may be seen by the referee.

Following the meeting, the Board attended the UEFA Youth League final at Colovray Sports Centre, with Olympiacos being crowned champions.

The meeting was attended by Éric Abidal (France), Rafael Benítez (Spain), Oliver Bierhoff (Germany), Petr Čech (Czechia), Rio Ferdinand (England), Jürgen Klinsmann (Germany), Henrik Larsson (Sweden), Michael Laudrup (Denmark), Roberto Martínez (Spain), Juan Mata (Spain), Predrag Mijatović (Montenegro), Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Netherlands), Patrick Vieira (France) and Rudi Völler (Germany).

Luís Figo, UEFA football advisor, said: “Meeting with the UEFA Football Board is important for UEFA and football in general as it provides us with invaluable insights from key stakeholders who have experienced the game at the highest levels about the various current topics and issues facing our game. We look forward to reviewing the discussions as part of UEFA’s unwavering commitment to improving the game we love for all and for generations to come.”

Petr Čech: “It is great to be in the same room for a great cause with such legendary players, coaches and people who have left a legacy in football. Everybody knows the UEFA Champions League is the best club competition you can play – every kid dreams about winning one – so if you can make things as best as possible for the next generation of fans and players, it is really important.”

Giovanni van Bronckhorst: “I think everyone on the Board has their experiences as players and coaches so we can relate to the items discussed today. I think it is good that UEFA is open to addressing the topics discussed today. We all have the same goal in mind: to make the game more attractive, equal and exciting. I am really happy to have attended the meeting.”

The Board, which was formed last year, has been assembled by European football’s governing body to provide an independent perspective on football-related topics. Members of the UEFA Football Board were selected for their exceptional on-pitch accomplishments, global reputational standing and depth of experience and expertise in the sport.

The meeting is an annual fixture in the UEFA calendar, but the members meet whenever appropriate or necessary. The members of the UEFA Football Board specifically focusing on women’s football matters are scheduled to meet later this autumn.