Wednesday 24 January 2018

New UEFA chief to tackle game's 'many problems'

New UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin. Photo: Reuters
New UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin. Photo: Reuters

New UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said his first mission will be to "shake hands and introduce himself" to staff at the organisation's Nyon headquarters but his tasks will get much harder after that.

Having beaten Dutch rival Michael van Praag by 42 votes to 13 at UEFA's extraordinary congress in Athens, Ceferin certainly has the mandate to tackle the "many problems" he admitted football has, with a resolution to the row over Champions League reforms the most pressing.

Completely unknown outside his native Slovenia until recent weeks, the 48-year-old lawyer built a coalition that combined near total support from Europe's smaller nations, with the heavyweight backing of more traditional powers such as France, Germany and Italy.

Ceferin said: "Obviously people wanted changes and new faces, and you've seen what happened today." Responding to those who have suggested he only got the job because of back-room deals and friends in high places like new FIFA president Gianni Infantino, Ceferin said: "I was never behind the scenes. Nobody behind the scenes gets 42 votes."

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 last month.

That settlement saw the number of guaranteed Champions League group-stage places for Europe's strongest leagues - the Bundesliga, La Liga, Premier League and Serie A - go from 11 to 16, half of the total, with radical changes proposed for how the money is allocated.

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.

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