Ceferin new Uefa president vows to review Champions League deal
The new Uefa president, Aleksander Ceferin, an “unknown” Slovenian lawyer, has vowed his first priority will be to look again at the controversial recent deal to give more Champions League revenue to the continent’s biggest clubs.
Faced with the recurrent threat of a breakaway, the Uefa executive committee recently agreed to hand Italy, England, Spain and Germany four guaranteed slots each in the Champions League and revamped the revenue split to favour those clubs that had previously been most successful.
But Ceferin, the head of the Slovenian Football Association since 2011 who came from nowhere to win the backing of 42 of the 55 Uefa voting members, won the support of smaller federations by complaining they were not properly consulted.
“We were not informed properly, I still think so,” he said after overcoming Michael van Praag, his more experienced Dutch FA rival. “About everything else, we will have to sit down and see what is the agreement and what we can do in future about it.”
The new model, seen as an attempt to quell breakaway talk among Spanish and Italian clubs in particular who are concerned about the Premier League’s financial muscle, was devised by a three-man working group comprising the FA vice-chairman David Gill, the Portuguese Fernando Gomes and Van Praag.
The Dutchman, who said publicly that he would try to unpick the deal if he had won and accused the clubs of putting a gun to Uefa’s head, insisted afterwards that he had not been present when the final details were agreed.
The plan was passed by the Uefa executive committee in Monaco last month but caused outrage among some smaller associations and the umbrella body for the 24 European leagues.
“We should show we are the ones who are the governing body,” Ceferin said. “At the same time we have to have dialogue with the clubs and I’m sure this situation can be solved.”
Senior Uefa sources said it was highly unlikely that the deal would be unpicked and the FA chief executive, Martin Glenn, said Gill had been careful to walk a difficult tightrope.
“It will be one of Aleksander Ceferin’s first big decisions,” said Glenn. “It hasn’t happened yet so technically it can [be unpicked]. David sought to strike a middle ground between defending English clubs’ interests and trying to prevent a potential worst-case scenario of big clubs leaving. He was trying to strike the middle ground. He is a bright guy and understands all the trade-offs.”
The Uefa presidency, one of the most powerful positions in the game, became vacant in May after the disgraced Michel Platini failed in his attempt to overturn a four-year ban in the courts.
Ceferin will take over the remaining two and a half years of the Frenchman’s tenure after defeating the 68-year-old Dutch FA president Van Praag by 42 votes to 13.
The genesis of Ceferin’s bid to become Uefa president was believed to be a series of meetings in March in Slovenia and Croatia between around 15 of the smaller members of the confederation to decide on a credible candidate to stand up for their interests. He was also quickly backed by larger countries including Italy, France, Germany, Ireland and Russia.
In his first press conference as president, Ceferin insisted he would not be afraid to also revisit the financial fair play rules that were introduced by Platini but later watered down in the face of opposition from some of the bigger clubs.
“FFP should be enforced more strongly because the gap between the rich ones and the poor ones is wider and wider,” he said. “We have a lot to do.”
The 48-year-old denied allegations that those lobbying on his behalf had promised inducements in return for votes and that Fifa’s president, Gianni Infantino, had backed his campaign in contravention of the rules.
“If you want to ask if he supported me, I hope so,” Ceferin said. “But I never asked him about it. All the stories about official support and stuff like that are a simple lie.”
Infantino, the former Uefa general secretary unexpectedly pitched into the Fifa presidency when Platini withdrew, also dismissed the claims after the vote: “This is an insult on the intelligence of all the national associations and those who are voting. You have seen this was a democratic process. There was an election.”
The only other candidate, the controversial Spanish acting Uefa president Ángel María Villar Llona, pulled out of the contest this month.
The English FA was among the handful that voted for Van Praag, though Glenn insisted its influence would not be dented by backing the losing candidate.
But despite the talk of reform and transparency, the sense that football’s power brokers have reverted to business as usual was exacerbated by the fact that Fifa’s ethics committee gave Platini special dispensation to make a farewell speech on “humanitarian” grounds.
The Frenchman, banned from all football activity for four years over a £1.35m “disloyal payment” received from the former Fifa president Sepp Blatter, said he would continue to fight to clear his name.
“I have a clear conscience,” he said. “I am certain not to have made any mistake and I will continue to fight this in the courts. I’d like to thank all of you who have had the courage to support me in the last few months.
“I’d like to thank you for these nine years. I think we did a great job. I hope you enjoyed it and are proud of what we achieved. I’m proud. That’s why I wanted to say goodbye and thank you. Friends of football, farewell.”