KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Michael Van Praag has reacted angrily to a report claiming that FIFA president Gianni Infantino has sought, indirectly, to influence next week’s UEFA election.
An online report [at http://www.josimar.no/artikler/the-presidents-man/3295/] has claimed that Infantino’s strategic adviser Kjetil Siem, while still general secretary of the Norwegian federation, had attended a meeting of Nordic nations’ delegates to support the UEFA power bid by Slovenia’s Aleksander Ceferin.
The European federation holds an extraordinary congress in Athens on September 14 to elect a successor as president to Frenchman Michel Platini who resigned earlier this summer after failing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport to overturn a FIFA ethics ban from all football.
Platini had led UEFA since 2007 when he ousted Sweden’s Lennart Johansson.
Ceferin, who has gathered support from eastern and southern Europe, is a senior lawyer and was a director of Olimpija Ljubljana ahead of becoming president of the Slovene federation.
Ceferin has been widely reported as the private preference of Infantino to take over at UEFA. He is also a friend of fellow Slovene Tomaz Vesel, Infantino’s recent appointment as head of the powerful FIFA audit and compliance committee.
There is nothing new in FIFA presidents taking a close interest in elections to senior positions in the world game’s six regional confederations. Platini, for example, owed his UEFA election in 2007 in part to support behind the scenes from FIFA’s then-president Sepp Blatter.
Van Praag, however, has indicated his anger that such politicking should still continue.
The president of the Dutch federation and former Ajax chairman is one of two rivals to Ceferin; the other is Angel Maria Villar, veteran head of the Spanish federation and a senior vice-president of both FIFA and UEFA.
Via his Twitter account, Van Praag said: “I am shocked after reading this information. If it is true, than we are back to the old-school way of doing business in the football world.
“That is exactly what I want to change. We need an honest football leader. No power hungry politician. Someone you can trust with football.”
Ceferin’s election prospects were enhanced by anger among small and middle-ranking European federations to last week’s power grab by the elite clubs in a revision of the UEFA club competition systems.
He is understood to have widespread support in eastern Europe, among the Nordic countries and also from Germany, Italy and the Irish Republic among others.
Indeed, some of his supporters have voiced the informal hope that he may become new UEFA president without even the need for an election once his opponents do the maths.
He has denied reports that he had promised to support a Nordic bid to host Euro 2024 or 2028 and offered a vice-presidency to Swedish federation president Karl-Erik Nilsson.