Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Official Banquet...

Official banquets are at best tedious and rarely fun experiences. The UEFA Champions League dinner was a combination of some extraordinary moments mixed in with a lot of too long speeches. It started out great with a very well produced video highlighting the two contestants of the Champions League Final match. The production values and the images were fantastic.

Then, our governmental host, Mayor Yuri Lushkov, a man who plays football twice a week before coming into the office and who I had met on my previous trip to Moscow when they hosted the FIFA Women's U20 World Championship in 2006, spoke for his allotted time and more. All speeches were consecutively translated, either from Russian to English or the reverse. So, it took twice as long.

Michel Platini on his way to the stage, proudly told me he would do his entire speech in English. To his credit he did and we only had the translation to Russian to go along with all the necessary words of thanks which he obligatorily offered to our hosts, the teams, the owners, the players, the entertainment, well... everyone. In addition, he exchanged gifts with Mayor Lushkov. The Russian mayor always gives something nice. I know, I have a lovely gift from him, while we football people exchange a plaque or other symbol of ourselves. The cities give nicer things.

In between, there was interspersed entertainment. Some of it was quite good. The dancers were resplendent in great costumes and the girls were beautiful too. There was a juggler who quite frankly was one of the best I have ever seen but, unfortunately didn't hold the attention of the crowd who were suffering with two further speeches by Peter Kenyon of Chelsea and David Gill of Manchester United.

There is a better way. Something I will share with my collegue David Taylor, the General Secretary of UEFA. Presentations need to be made and the hosts need the opportunity to put their social best foot forward, but when the number of hours exceed the match time plus overtime and penalties, it is time to revisit the organization of official banquets.

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