New UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin says he is committed to fixing several problems in football, including helping to resolve current disagreements over Champions League reforms.
The 48-year-old lawyer from Slovenia was virtually unknown since emerging on the scene in recent weeks, but was handed the all-important job after beating Dutch rival Michael van Praag by 42 votes to 13 at UEFA’s extraordinary congress in Athens.
With the backing of European heavyweights like France, Germany and Italy, Ceferin was able to build a formidable coalition.
“Obviously people wanted changes and new faces, and you’ve seen what happened today, said Ceferin.
“The big, medium and small associations were all asking for the same things and I might sound naive but I think they believe in my programme.”
Some claim that Ceferin only got the job because of backroom deals and his high-powered friendship with new FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
Responding to the suggestion, Ceferin said: “I have known Gianni Infantino since I became the president of the Slovenian FA in 2011 and he was secretary general of UEFA.
“If you want to ask me if he supported me, I hope so. I don’t know. But if the general secretary thinks I am the best man for the job that is good, because he should know the organisation.”
Ceferin did not get too heavily into policy proposals, but according to Press Association, he said he wants to “bring in term limits for presidents, clear out all executive committee members who are no longer active in their associations and set up a compliance committee”.
Also set to occupy his time for the first few months of his job is the current drama surrounding UEFA’s hastily arranged deal with the European Club Association last month – a controversy that is threatening to erupt in a class war between the bigger and smaller European nations.
Under the new agreement, the number of guaranteed Champions League group-stage places for Europe’s strongest leagues – the Bundesliga, La Liga, Premier League and Serie A – have jumped from 11 to 16, while radical changes have also been proposed for the allocation of funds – changes that will once again favour the biggest European nations and their clubs.
Ceferin admitted to being unhappy with certain aspects of the deal, and promised to sit down with various stakeholders as soon as he got to work.
Van Praag was even more strongly against the deal, insinuating that it had been made with the ECA effectively holding a gun to UEFA’s head by threatening a breakaway super league backed by US investors.
It’s unclear whether this deal can be altered in any way, or if Ceferin will be able to keep all stakeholders happy. There’s no doubt he has his work cut out for him in the coming weeks as he looks to complete the term started by his disgraced predecessor Michel Platini.
Ceferin certainly isn’t one to shy away from a challenge, however, having crossed the Sahara desert four times by car and once on a motorbike.
Uefa president Ceferin is a karate black belt who has crossed the Sahara five times – four by car and once on a motorbike. So there you go.
— Owen Gibson (@owen_g) September 14, 2016