There couldn’t be a greater contrast between the noise and frenzied excitement of a football match, to the calm and peaceful atmosphere within the walls of the UEFA building here in Nyon. In a long sleek building, an interior that is all light and glass, with smooth wooden and marble floors all in clean lines and all overlooking Montblanc and the lakeside, it seems hard to imagine how any work is ever done within the hallowed walls.
Surely it would be tempting to spend all day staring at the view or simply listening to the lake’s waters lapping around the shores of the building.
Yet despite the tantalising view, behind the quiet facade lies a huge working busy organisation: UEFA -The Union of European Football Associations. With 236,000 clubs, 329,000 referees and 1,600 games all to be looked after, there’s a lot to be managed and supervised and decisions to be made on all things football related. Home to approximately 243 employees, half of them Swiss, (the other half 24+ different nationalities), they all come to work in what must be one of the most stunning settings to earn a daily living.
Yesterday a guided tour of the building was given by Mr Jean-Paul Turrian (UEFA presidential advisor) to a group of interested individuals who had come via the Université Populaire (more on this association below). After a brief introduction to the reception area, the group was led to the auditorium where Mr Turrian welcomed the group on behalf of Michel Platini (the current president of UEFA).
Then came a presentation beginning with the history of how the association came to be in Nyon in the first place, (after starting in Paris then onto Berne then a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between Zurich and Geneva) a decision was made to create a permanent European headquarters. Nyon close to transport links, and other Swiss and European cities, was chosen as an ideal place to house the headquarters.
A beautiful building for the beautiful game
A competition was then launched to design the building, and here we saw the buildings that didn’t make it, one of them two towering skyscrapers, the other a hideous, heavy shape, a far cry from the design that won. The present building (10 years old this week) is laid out on three levels, a structure that doesn’t dominate the skyline but makes the most of the surrounding gorgeous scenery. The structure is designed so that are there are no pillars blocking out the light on each level, the aim of the design is to symbolise transparence. “We have nothing to hide here”.
After a brief explanation of the organigram of UEFA along came various statistics along with details on how UEFA is funded, television rights, the income that these bring along with ticket sales, hospitality packages and other sources of revenue. Apart from the top matches and well known cups such as the Champions League, and the UEFA Europa League there are others that don’t always get as much publicity (see site for full listing). UEFA also encourages football at grassroots level and helps in developing countries in Eastern Europe and Africa this was followed by a short film on its support of football in the special Olympics.
Within the building employees work across many departments, from those that deal with the harmonisation of match calendars, to those that work with the school of referees to the department dealing with anti-doping issues in football. There there’s the section for female football matches (female football is becoming increasingly popular each year). The media department has over 30 employees alone working on alternative media and the UEFA internet site is even translated into Japanese as that country has many followers of European football.
After the stats, fact and figures, the group were then shown a short film on the funny side of football: the goals missed by a mile, the fox running on to a pitch during a match, players attempting to play in mud and torrential rain, crying fans, tearful players, exasperated managers, players who didn’t follow the fair play rule, players kissing other players in jubilation, balls accidentally hitting members of the crowd and one where the ref kicked the ball backwards. The film, shown in the large auditorium in the base of the building is an area is also used for those all important live match draws and can be linked up to satellite coverage within minutes.
After a short question and answer session, the tour then continued around the building via the staff restaurant (with a menu more akin to Michelin than motorway station).
The court room where decisions are made if there is a dispute or incident in a match or if a team “was robbed”.
The group were then led on to the roof where they were then shown the progress of the work on the second UEFA building (called La Clairière) which is being constructed on the other side of the road, access will be through an interconnecting underground walk way.
This building is due to be completed by 26th March 2010 and the keys officially handed over at 11:00 on that day. The construction firm will pay a penalty clause and be fined if there is any delay to the date.
The new building continues with the same theme of light and transparence and has a design that takes environmental concerns into consideration. The windows will keep the building cool in summer, yet retain heat in winter. This circular building has also been planned to make the most of the view and the nature surrounding it.
Other plans – This old house below (also an Uefa property) will be turned into an International Football museum.
The tour ended where it began, in reception amongst all the European football trophies that are displayed within glass cases, including the coveted Euro Cup. Trophies that all footballers want to hold aloft one day and all fans want to see their team or country win.
Some of us I fear will be waiting a long time (your Living in Nyon correspondent is English)….
Université Populaire organises various tours and courses throughout the year such as an introduction to the history of music to storytelling. Courses are in French.
From the UEFA website
*UEFA is a representative democracy, comprised of 53 national football associations, and is itself recognised by FIFA as one of six continental federations. The organisation of the administration of football is based on a pyramid system of regulations, with FIFA the world governing body, UEFA the European governing body and national football associations the governing bodies at domestic level.
Want to know more? The UEFA website has a frequently asked questions section.