LONDON: The Football Association has thrown its weight behind Michael Van Praag’s bid to secure the presidency of European football at UEFA’s extraordinary congress in Athens next Wednesday.

Van Praag, former president of Ajax and head of the Dutch federation, is the only remaining challenger to favourite Aleksander Ceferin from Slovenia after the overnight withdrawal of veteran Spaniard Angel Maria Villar.

UEFA is in urgent need of new leadership after almost year in stasis since the initial suspension of Michel Platini over financial misconduct within world federation FIFA of which he was also a vice-president.

The FA’s decision to back Van Praag was explained by David Gill, who holds multiple roles as the body’s vice-chairman, a member of the UEFA executive committee and Britain’s vice-president of FIFA.

Gill said: “The FA board has considered the candidates for the UEFA presidency. While we note Angel Maria Villar Llona’s withdrawal overnight and fully respect Aleksander Ceferin’s credentials, we have agreed to support Michael van Praag.

FIFA reform

“He is someone we have come to know very well and worked closely with in recent years, particularly because of our shared commitment to securing FIFA reform.

“As UEFA President, Mr Van Praag would be able to provide the strong and credible leadership European football requires at a crucial moment for the global game.

“He has an exemplary reputation, forged during his long association with Ajax and the Royal Netherlands Football Association.

“He would represent the European member associations with dignity and integrity while building on the good work UEFA has been carrying out in key areas such as promoting football for all, the growth of the women’s game and the fight against discrimination.

“Having worked alongside him on the UEFA Executive Committee, Mr Van Praag is also the right choice to bring all aspects of the European game closer together, particularly with his knowledge of club football, and will be able to foster close ties with other confederations.

“In all, he has a proven track record across domestic and international matters that can only help UEFA go forward.”

The Belgian federation, predictably, has also come out in overnight support for Van Praag though the fact that Holland’s neighbours took so long ws hardly a ringing endorsement.