Aleksander Čeferin, duly ensconced for a further four years as president of UEFA, promised no deviation from its opposition to any disruption of its command of European football.
This had emerged as a significant theme during UEFA Congress in Lisbon as reports on the European Federation’s financial health revealed how it had needed to dip into the reserves to offset the problems raised primarily by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The 55-year-old Slovene was re-elected unopposed and by acclamation as president of UEFA for a further four-year term. This also qualifies him to be a vice president of FIFA.
He made no reference during Congress to the chaos at the Champions League Final in Saint-Denis for which much of the blame was laid at UEFA’s door by the independent inquiry it had commissioned.
Čeferin’s overall message, bearing in mind the financial situation, had to be ‘steady as it goes.’ Hopefully, for UEFA the Euro 2024 finals in Germany will boost its coffers with record revenues, not to mention the expected bonus from an expansion of the early stage of the Champions League and other club competitions.
In that context, Čeferin also made what appeared to be an oblique reference to the uncertainty – both on the pitch and off – raised by the world governing body FIFA’s projected launch of a 32-team Club World Cup in 2015.
Of course, he could have been referring merely to the short-lived European Super League breakout.
Čeferin said: “We’re faced with galloping globalisation and everything that implies. Benefits and risks as well. We shouldn’t forget that. There have been temptations, and even attempts, to create new models, but they conflict with the European model that we cherish so dearly.
“Our model is based on sporting merit. Where we come from, merit has no price. Merit can’t be claimed, and merit can’t be acquired. It can only be earned. Season by season. On and off the pitch. There’s no room for cartels on this continent.
“Domestic leagues must remain the foundation of football. They are the bedrock of our model.”
Čeferin acknowledged how UEFA’s resistance to the Super League project had been reinforced by the European Club Association chaired by Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the Qatari president of Paris Saint-Germain.
NO OUTSIDE OWNERS
He said: “I would especially like to thank Nasser for that, to protect this football model. This cooperation is important and this cooperation is great.”
One French newspaper, ahead of Congress, had mischievously referred to Al-Khelaifi as “the real boss of UEFA.”
Čeferin added:“Football is one of the last public assets yet to be privatised. It doesn’t belong to anyone, or rather it belongs to everyone. To players, coaches, referees, supporters and volunteers. We have a duty to ensure that the interests of football prevail over the private interests of a handful of privileged individuals.”
How comfortably this sits alongside UEFA’s likely easing of restrictions on multi-club ownership remains to be seen.
Credit: AIPS Media