Spotlight: Interview with Tiago Craveiro, CEO, Portuguese Football Federation

Spotlight: Interview with Tiago Craveiro, CEO, Portuguese Football Federation
Portuguese football is enjoying a golden period. The men's team are reigning European Champion's and victory in the inaugural UEFA Nations League followed success in Futsal, Beach Football and youth level competitions. In this exclusive interview for Soccerex, Pedro Pinto, CEO and Founder, Empower Sports speaks to Tiago Craveiro, the driving force behind the Federation's success.

 PP:  We are here at the Cidade de Futebol, an amazing training centre. It’s been over 3 years since it was inaugurated. How would you describe the importance it has had for the development of Portuguese football?

TC:  The creation of the city of football was a turning point for us because it allowed us to become much more than just a national association. Our focus is on becoming the home of Portuguese football when it comes to all the activities that promote and protect football across a variety of areas. We want this to become the “city of all” and want to host as many events and activities as possible from the elite to the grassroots. From an infrastructure point of view, we have given unique working conditions to our 25 national teams with three state of the art pitches and 11 locker rooms. We also host one of the only three VAR centers in the world, with a key focus on new technologies as an aid to referees' work to improve match decisions. Furthermore, we have been able to broaden our service structure with new areas such as eSports, Customer Relationship Management or, more recently, “11” -- the first TV channel of a national association. And we won’t stop here: we are building an hotel in order to support the National Teams and also a Museum dedicated to the history of the National Teams and Portuguese Football. We plan to build, also, a Futsal Pavillion and a structure dedicated to Beach Soccer.

PP: Fernando Gomes has been at the helm of the FPF for over 7 years. This period has coincided with many historic achievements. What has been the secret of his and your success?

TC:  Success takes hard work and I would say that it has come thanks to a good mix of focus, planning, ambition and a strategic vision. We are fortunate to have in Fernando Gomes a leader with a clear vision and exceptional skills and with whom I have the privilege of working. Then we have a great team in the different areas of the business and we rely on people who are competent, knowledgeable, focused and who are not afraid to innovate. 

We are happy with our success but it is important that we do not rest on our laurels. We always have to be ready for future challenges and new ways where we can be successful. That is why I would also like to say that we need to be plugged into new trends and ways to appeal to new generations so the future of football on and off the pitch is safeguarded.

PP: What did winning Euro 2016 mean for you and Portuguese football?

TC:  This historic conquest meant so much in so many ways to us and the whole country. Portugal had been so close so many times… dating back to 1966 when we reached the semi-finals of the World Cup, we have always had talent. Then in the recent past we made the final of the Euro in 2004, the semi-finals in 2000 and 2012, and the semi-finals of the World Cup again in 2006. We don’t see the title at the Euro as a point of arrival, we see it as a starting point for a new stage of football development in Portugal. We are a small country, but this title has given everyone the belief that we can win any major competition at any time. We always had the talent, and the transfer market proves that, but now we have the winning pedigree as well as a national team and that was the step that was needed to change the culture of Portuguese football.

PP: There have been many other trophies won… Futsal EURO, Beach football, youth football… can you tell us the main factors which contributed to this success?

TC:  Football is by far the most popular sport in Portugal and that has also had positive consequences in our international competitiveness. But at FPF we also host Futsal and Beach Soccer.

In few years we made Futsal the most popular sport in Portugal played indoors, creating a very competitive league. We are growing about 10% a year in Futsal players and right now the Futsal National Team are European champions, Sporting is Euro club champion and the Womens National Team reached Euro final against Spain.

In Beach Soccer we were World Champions in 2015 and recently reached World Cup 2019 in Paraguay.

In Youth Football, our quality is reflected in six youth Euro Finals (1 U21, 4 U19, 1 U17) and two youth Euro titles (U19 and U17) since 2012 – only Spain did better than us.

Last July, the U19 National Team reached the Euro Final for the third time in a row. Half of the players of that team played, during last season, at Liga Revelação, a new competition U23 that we created in order to improve the integration of young Portuguese players in a good competitive environment.

Overall I can say we have a plan, we improved conditions and clubs and players have the quality and do their work. This is why together we have had so much success.

PP: Portugal always had a lot of talent and a lot of potential but you never won any senior titles… what was missing and how have you managed to change from being contenders to winners?

TC:  In the recent past we showed that we had the quality and the experience to reach the highest levels, we were just missing the trophies. We believe that since 2012, we managed to create a culture of winning and structure of success that begins in youth national teams and has in the Portuguese National Team its product of excellence. This work in infrastructure and mentality then allowed the individual quality and talent of the athletes to be the x factor and they did the rest.

PP: What are you most proud of since you took over your role as CEO of the FPF?

TC:  Our objective is to promote and protect football and that is what I am most proud of. I believe we are working to serve Portuguese football and bringing the best of Portuguese values. We have been able to be good ambassadors for the country because our successes are Portugal’s successes.

PP: Where does the development of women’s football rank in the list of priorities for you?

TC: The development of women’s football is a top priority for us. We view this as a core issue in the development of our Society as a whole because it is about empowering women and promoting equality.  If you ask me to define in one sentence what we are doing at FPF, I would answer: ‘we are working to get more boys and girls to play football in Portugal!’.

If we take into account the fact that women make up 53% of the Portuguese population, it would be unreasonable for us not to give this topic the importance it deserves. Women are central to us as fans and as athletes. Nine out of ten women players in Portugal are under 23. We are growing about 30% a year in youth women and 20% in women in general.

And we follow the same logic in our internal structure. in 2012, there was a 140% increase in the number of women working at FPF.

However, the road is still long: in each 100 football players in Portugal, just 5 are women. Not good. This ratio must change – and quickly! The growth potential in women’s football is enormous and we see that trend as a great opportunity. 

PP: You have just become the first federation to launch a TV channel. What are your objectives for this project?

TC:  The same ones we have at FPF. We want to get more boys and girls playing Football. That is why we were elected by our members and that is our main goal, we really want to focus on development and participation. This channel can be a great tool for us and we don’t want it to be seen as “FPF TV”, we want it to be seen as the place all football lovers can go to follow the game they love.

We actually believe that this channel can contribute to improve the environment surrounding Portuguese Football. We want to increase the exposure of all our national teams from women’s football, to youth teams, Futsal and Beach Soccer. We will show the football landscape in Portugal and will talk about the sport in a positive and constructive way. We will also share the unknown realities of Portuguese Football and many Portuguese players playing and training all over the world.  

PP: How is your relationship with UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin and what role do you think he has had in the development and promotion of European football during his tenure?

TC:  We share the goal of making Football even more attractive to the many fans we have in Europe and all over the world. I believe the UEFA President is on the right track of developing the game and promoting good solutions for the future, in areas as transparency, protecting the game, competitions format, solidarity and technology. However I am not in a position to evaluate his role. I think his work over the last years speaks for itself. As a person, he has been a great surprise for me. We share many similar visions of life and perspectives on sports development.

PP: What are your priorities for your next mandate?

TC:  My goals are projected until 2020 and they are for the continued success of our work and the development of football in Portugal. After that I will wait for President Fernando Gomes to tell me whether he would like me to continue to be part of this administration and to continue the work we are doing. 

Tiago Craveiro will be speaking at Soccerex Europe as part of an eleite level programme looking at the future of football in Europe. To see the full programme please click here.

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