KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Michael Van Praag has entitled his manifesto Building Bridges though a return to solid ground is probably what UEFA needs most at a delicate moment in the European federation’s evolution.

UEFA was founded in 1954 when Europe’s national associations began to realise that FIFA, which they had dominated until then, was slipping beyond their control as more African, Asian and central American FAs came aboard.

Initially its role was as a simple competition organiser: the Champions Cup, then the Cup-winners Cup plus the European Championship. In due course it took over the Inter-City Fairs Cup, converting it into progressively the UEFA Cup then Europa League.

Along the way UEFA became a gilded money-making machine the success of whose mechanism depended on keeping television, sponsors, clubs, leagues and federations all happy.

New deal

Later this year UEFA must nail down the next three-year agreement. Van Praag can argue, coherently, that this is not a time to entrust the organisation’s affairs to a comparatively new kid on the block (Slovenia’s Aleksandr Ceferin) or to a veteran of the old, disgraced amd derided FIFA school (Spain’s Angel Maria Villar).

Van Praag has a powerful cv. As a former president of Ajax Amsterdam he knows the club world; as a successful businessman he knows about revenue generation and distributiom; as head of the KNVB he is on the same wavelength of federation presidents who fear the relentless march of the clubs.

His manifesto preaches the need for unity at a time when “mutual connection and trust do not go without saying.” This sounds convoluted but basically Van Praag is extolling the need for credibility of governance which eroded under Michel Platini, banished for dipping his own fingers too deeply into football’s till.

Warning obliquely against the power blocks already evident in the presidential campaign, Van Praag preaches a demand for “new leadership . . . a unifier;someone who can build bridges between associations, key stakeholders and different cultures – within our world of football but also with the world outside.”

He warns: “UEFA has been virtually standing still for 10 months, and counting. There are a number of important issues to be dealt with which have not been addressed at all in that time.

“They need to be tackled, and soon. Because we cannot afford to lose any more time, it is important to choose someone with experience. Someone who can get straight to work. Someone with a large internal and external network that includes Brussels; someone who knows what it takes.

“Someone you can safely entrust with European football.”

Van Praag’s manifesto document recounts his career inside and outside football and recalls that he was the man who first fronted told Sepp Blatter in June 2014 that it was time he quit as FIFA president.

Promises include:

1, more and better consultations between UEFA and its associations;

2, more manpower available to support associations;

3, satellite offices in south-eastern and eastern Europe;

4, improved relationship with leagues, agents, clubs, FIFPro;

5, better cooperation with FIFA at a time when “global football is in the

middle of the biggest change in its history”;

6, reopen the Brussels office to stay close to developments in the European Union;

7, stepping up anti-hooliganism measures and stadium security;

8, development focus;

9, countering the threat of clubs setting up a ‘Super League’

10 creating an infrastructure fund with targeted support; and

11 full transparency on the remuneration of the UEFA president.

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