SLOVENIA’S Aleksander Ceferin has been elected as UEFA’s seventh president at an extraordinary congress in Athens.,,and tonges are wagging over his emergence from ‘nowhere’ ,,and that he is Gianni Infantino’s puppet.
Responding to those who have suggested he only got the job because of back-room deals and friends in high places such as new FIFA president Gianni Infantino, Ceferin said: “I was never behind the scenes. Nobody behind the scenes gets 42 votes.
“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.”
Infantino did not hang around the Grand Resort Lagonissi long enough to ask if that was the basis of his undoubted backing for Ceferin but other football associations were happy to elaborate on the reasons behind their vote.
The 48-year-old lawyer, almost unheard of outside his own country at the start of the campaign, beat his Dutch rival Michael van Praag by 42 votes to 13, with no abstentions.
Ceferin will now complete the remaining two-and-a-half years of former president Michel Platini’s term, after the Frenchman was banned from all football activities
New UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said he wants to tackle the “many problems” football has and find a resolution to the row over Champions League reforms.
Ceferin said: “Obviously people wanted changes and new faces, and you’ve seen what happened today. 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.”
Both Ireland Football Association chief executive Patrick Nelson and Scottish Football Association boss Stewart Regan told PA Sport they backed Ceferin because he understands the interests of small nations but had the leadership qualities needed to navigate football away from recent peri
The former lawyer, who spoke fluent English throughout, has not provided too many policy details so far but did say he wants to bring in term limits for presidents, clear out all executive committee members who are no longer active in their associations and set up a compliance committee.
But it is the burgeoning class war over access to UEFA’s club competitions that will dominate his first few months in the job, with clubs and leagues around Europe threatening to revolt over the deal UEFA hastily arranged with the powerful European Club Association (ECA) last month. Ceferin said he is unhappy about how this deal was reached and communicated, and said sitting down with the various stakeholders would be his first priority.
Van Praag, however, has completely disowned the deal, despite sitting on the UEFA committee that negotiated it with the ECA, the successor group to the old G-14 collection of big clubs that he once led as president of Dutch side Ajax.
The defeated candidate told PA Sport the negotiations took place with the ECA effectively holding a gun to UEFA’s head in the form of a breakaway super league, a threat that has been made before but this time was more real as talks with U.S. backers were progressing.
Van Praag said the settlement was “negotiated by the UEFA hierarchy and ECA, not by me,” but it was him who got ECA chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge to take the breakaway threat off the table.
Football Association chief executive Martin Glenn did not go as far as Van Praag, the man the FA backed, but said the deal was a “balancing act” between the desires of the big clubs, the more aspirational clubs, broadcasters and commercial partners, and the threat of a breakaway “had some substance to it.”
The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL), which represents the continent’s 24 domestic football leagues, called on Uefa to scrap the proposals, claiming national leagues will suffer.
“It will be the first thing to deal with,” said Ceferin, who succeeds Michel Platini following his resignation after being banned from all football activity last year.
“Uefa is a very good, strong organisation. It was without leadership for some time and that was a problem dealing with this.
“We have to speak and have dialogue with the clubs and I think it can be solved.”
Ceferin, who has been the head of the Football Association of Slovenia since 2011, takes on the remainder of Platini’s term of office, until 2019.
The lawyer said Financial Fair Play rules – introduced, in Uefa’s words, to “improve the overall financial health of European club football” – should be enforced more strongly.
He added there was “a lot of work to do”, citing match-fixing, security and safety, and racism as issues to address.
England’s Football Association last week declared its support for Van Praag, who – unlike Ceferin – is a member of Uefa’s executive committee.
The Scottish Football Association said it would vote for the Slovenian.
After the vote, FA chairman Greg Clarke said he was happy to work with Ceferin, and welcomed his clear mandate.