UEFA’s Ceferin tackles dangers in Europe, integrity attacks
Entering rooms at UEFA headquarters, Aleksander Ceferin still finds it startling and unsettling when staff leap from their seats to greet him. The deference of the Michel Platini era is proving hard to shake off for the officials running European football.
Whereas Platini was one of the greats of the game, winning titles as captain of France and Juventus before becoming a football politician, most of Ceferin’s professional experience is in criminal law. As a relative novice to football administration, having led the Slovenian federation since only 2011, Ceferin won’t be treated in awe like Platini.
The 49-year-old Ceferin emerged from relative obscurity to assume the reigns of the confederation which runs two of football’s biggest competitions — the Champions League and European Championship. Ceferin’s landslide UEFA election win last month was the latest twist in world football, where the established hierarchies were shaken by criminal investigations and ethics cases. A raid on FIFA headquarters by Swiss police in September 2015 paved the way for Ceferin’s victory.
An improper payment of 2 million Swiss francs from FIFA to Platini in 2011 was uncovered, leading to a four-year ban from football being imposed. Platini was no longer eligible to succeed Sepp Blatter as FIFA president in February, and UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino unexpectedly stood for election in his place and won.
Although Michael van Praag, as a UEFA vice president and former FIFA candidate, was considered the favorite to replace Platini as head of European football, the Dutchman’s support drained to Ceferin.
But questions about Ceferin’s integrity have overshadowed the opening weeks of his reign. He was forced to defend the scrupulousness of a 4 million euro-loan from UEFA to his federation long before he was a presidential candidate.
Ceferin’s mandate is overwhelming after being supported by 42 of UEFA’s 55 federations.
New UEFA leader Ceferin pledges to protect national leagues
New UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin wants to protect Europe’s national leagues from the threat of breakaway competitions.
Ceferin was elected last month amid talk of a future closed-shop Super League and breakaway cross-border divisions, as some clubs seem ready to chase bigger commercial deals by moving beyond the bounds of national leagues.
He spoke ahead of yesterday’s annual meeting of the group of European leagues, which revived recent tension with UEFA, and could become the new president’s most difficult stakeholders.
The former Slovenia soccer federation leader said he was open to innovation — such as creating regional leagues — but within limits and inside UEFA’s control.
Radical change looked possible this year as UEFA was without a president during talks with clubs on Champions League entries and distributing billion-dollar annual prize money for the three seasons from 2018.