UEFA’s Ce­ferin tack­les dan­gers in Europe, in­tegrity at­tacks

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

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.

Alek­sander Ce­ferin

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