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Portugalís Long-Term Strategic Vision Pays Dividends

Fri 17th Feb 2017 | Football Club Management

They’ve produced some of the world’s finest footballer’s and in 2016 Portugal’s men became champions of Europe after beating France in the final of the European Championships.

fcbusiness speaks to Tiago Craveiro, CEO of the Portuguese Football Federation to find out more about the strategy behind the team’s success and the Football Talks Conference in Lisbon 22-24 March.  

2016 was a very good year for Portuguese football, your Euro 2016 final triumph being the pinnacle. How did you feel after the win?

It’s true that 2016 will always go down as a benchmark year of success for the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF). As well as the European Championship triumph in France, Portugal won the under-17 European Championship in Azerbaijan and other Portugal teams achieved highly notable results, not least the women’s team that qualified for a major tournament for the first time (European Championship in Netherlands).

The under-19 team reached the European Championship semi-finals in Germany, and Portugal’s Beach Soccer team were runners-up in the European Championship. At the start of this season (2016/2017), all the men’s and women’s youth teams (under-17 and under-19) qualified for their respective elite rounds. Naturally, all of this makes us immensely proud and strengthens the confidence in our strategy and in the entire FPF structure that works on and off the pitch.

Has this given a boost to football in Portugal, and how are you working to maximise the exposure this has afforded you both in football terms and commercially?

It is important to point out that the Portuguese Football Federation always has a well-defined strategy at all levels, and communication and marketing are obviously two areas that are no different. It’s worth remembering that in 2016 we also became European Champions off the pitch, winning the Kiss Marketing Awards (UEFA award for best promotional campaign during Euro 2016).

We knew how we wanted to communicate to the fans and we adopted promotional strategies that created a unique link between the team and the fans, which was also important for our sports results. The European Championship title gave us tremendous worldwide exposure and now we feel an even bigger responsibility to respect the principles that have guided us to this point and which we believe are indispensable to defend football: rigor, transparency, integrity and creativity.

This is our path, we always want to be at the forefront at every level and our emphasis on digital media and the social networks is irreversible.

The Euro win was a culmination of years of hard work behind the scenes developing structures to promote on-pitch success; can you explain some of the work that has been done to aid this?

The Euro 2016 triumph happened at the start of the second term of the current management of the FPF, presided over by Fernando Gomes. When we first took office at the start of 2012, we began a profound restructuring process of the Federation, which included modernising infrastructures and consolidating a modern set-up off the pitch that would help us achieve good results on it.

This continuous work, always respecting our principles of sticking to a rigorous budget and ensuring financial sustainability, has been successful because our multi-skilled team of professionals fully embraced our reforming spirit and felt it could contribute to a historical turning point in Portuguese football. This collective effort was further boosted by the Cidade do Futebol (Football City), our new “home” that was dreamed of for so long by so many.

We promised our stakeholders we would build it and we kept our promise before the end of the mandate, proving that it is possible to do a competent and thorough job in a relatively short space of time. This was one of our main triumphs and it’s worth remembering that Portugal prepared for the European Championship on our pitches so the players could feel the warmth and support of the Portuguese people before going to represent the country in a major international tournament.

Portugal has a very good record in developing players of the highest standard - Ronaldo, Luis Figo, Eusebio to name but a few. The Cidade do Futebol (Football City) complex which opened in 2016 is a major part in this new FPF structure. How do you expect it to help with the development of players?

Football City was designed to a large extent also to serve as a foundation for our talented youth players. Portugal is a football country, where lots of young footballers nurture the dream of becoming household names in the game.

Our mission is to recognise their talent and harness it in conjunction with the clubs, while never ignoring their education as people. The opportunity to immerse themselves in the victorious spirit of the FPF is extremely important for their development.

We want them to be deeply entrenched with the Portugal brand and to know we have a group of national coaches who know how to prepare them to face up to the challenges of their careers naturally, whether that be for the senior national team or in an area completely unconnected to football.

In March, you will host the second Football Talks conference in Lisbon. Tell me more about this event?

Following on from what we said about communication and marketing, we believe we have the duty to defend football. And defending football also involves reflecting on it. Football Talks 2017 will be an event with a worldwide dimension organised by the Portuguese Football Federation between 22 and 24 March, at Estoril Congress Centre.

The idea is to encourage reflection on the main topics facing modern-day football and to come up with solutions that may be adopted in the future to solve some of today’s problems. It was extremely important to congregate some of the most important people in the football world on our panel of speakers.

We have confirmation from big personalities such as Gianni Infantino (FIFA president), Aleksander Ceferin (UEFA president), Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (European Club Association  president), Nuno Moura (FPF Marketing Director), Nuno Santos (content and programming director of the Story Lab international platform), Alejandro Dominguez (CONMEBOL president), Victor Montagliani (CONCACAF president) David Elleray (International Board Technical Director), Gary Stevenson (Major League Soccer president), Geir Thorsteinsson (Icelandic Football Federation president), among others. It will be three days in which football will certainly come out the winner.

2016 was a year of change in the higher echelons of football with Gianni Infantino and Aleksander Čeferin, both of whom are set to speak at Football Talks, taking over at FIFA and UEFA respectively. Do you anticipate further change in football for 2017?

Alejandro Dominguez (CONMEBOL president) and Victor Montagliani (CONCACAF president) should also be added to Infantino and Ceferin in the group of new leaders who will seek to restore credibility to football, which has been lost in public opinion. As a sport that generates passion all over the world, it is essential that fans recognise qualities that are indispensable in the game’s leaders, such as professionalism, morality and accountability.

We were very keen to make Football Talks 2017 reflect these winds of change in the administration of sport at worldwide level, and we are extremely happy that we believe we will fully achieve this goal by including the big players in this change in the panel of speakers. We hope this augurs well for what the future will bring us.

Transparency has been one of the underlining problems facing football governance the last few years. Do you think we’ve turned a corner now and how do you see football’s governing bodies and associations adapting to ensure high levels of transparency and good governance are maintained?

In the last few days reports have been released that show a big improvement in the financial results of clubs from the moment in which the financial fair play rules came into effect. The only way to restore credibility in football is to increase the levels of transparency and this is the only way forward for worldwide sports governance.

At the FPF, we are proud to have been considered one of the most transparent Federations in the world in 2015, by Transparency International. It is precisely through these external assessments that football will shed its image of corruption and return the genuine joy of the game to the fans.

FPF was invited to participate in tests of ‘Video-Refereeing’ along with five other nations. How has this gone and do you think we are closer to seeing the introduction of ‘Video-Referees’ across football?

We wanted to involve ourselves in the trial process for the introduction of the video referee from the very start and we are delighted to have been one of the Federations that FIFA chose to develop this innovative project. We are in favour of the introduction of technology in football to help make decisions that can have a direct influence on the result of football matches.

The Portuguese Football Federation has been involved in this project from the start, developing a training plan for referees and having already carried out tests in the Portuguese Super Cup and Portuguese Cup matches, as well as a Portuguese refereeing team having recently taken part in a trial run in the recent Germany-Italy friendly.

We believe the only way forward is to fight for sporting justice and we hope that technology will soon have a crucial role to play in the development of football.  

Read the latest issue of fcbusiness for more football business insight. 

Posted by: Aaron Gourley 

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