Change in UEFA?

By Jan Bogaarts


The president of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), Michel Platini is not convinced of the value of technology in football and therefore prefers to keep the decision making power in the hands of referees. Other football organizations such as FIFA and the English Premier League have already adopted what is called Goal Line Technology (GLT), a system that detects whether a ball has or has not fully crossed the goal line. Given that this technology is being implemented by other organizations and is more accurate than the human referee, will the UEFA implement it and, if so, when?

Institutions like the UEFA are often very stable (only two minor changes in the last 25 years). Unless there is some exogenous occurrence that affects football directly it is hard to imagine a change in the rules of the game. In this case there has been an exogenous change, namely the birth of GLT, but that has been available since 2006. Mahoney and Thelen (2010), propose that institutional change can also happen endogenously. They suggest that the internal power distributions are what trigger institutional change. So who has power in european football?

Football players and coaches work for clubs and national teams that are organized by each country’s football association. These football associations then come together at the UEFA congress that is led by a committee with its president. The committee and the president are the only actors who can change rules but they are voted in by the member associations every 4 years. The immediate decision making power is held by the committee but all the associations have the power to remove them.

The English Association has already decided for GLT but others have not. The power now lies in the hands of those that do not want the change. Only if the power distribution between associations shifts, such that Platini is no longer voted president, will GLT stand a chance in UEFA competitions such as the Champions League and the European Championships.