KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Aleksander Ceferin marked his re-election as UEFA president today in Rome by warning that the European federation would oppose ambitious proposals before FIFA for a world competitions expansion.
Gianni Infantino, who will be re-elected unopposed himself as head of the world governing body in June, was in Ceferin’s audience along with presidents and general secretaries of all UEFA’s 55 national associations.
A major rift emerged between FIFA and UEFA last year when Infantino tried to rush through his own governing council proposals for an expansion of the Club World Cup and the creation of a Global Nations League. These would be financed by mystery backers in exchange for the concession of significant broadcasting and internet rights.
UEFA’s delegates, including Ceferin himself as a FIFA vice-president, raised strong objections and a showdown is threatened at FIFA Council in Miami next month.
Ceferin, in his president’s address, issued due warning that UEFA would not soften its line and expected, as the financial core of the world game, to be due every respect from FIFA.
He said: “Respect means telling our friends, family, colleagues, bosses and partners when we disagree with them and when we think, in all humility, that they are wrong.
“It is often the yes-men who lure leaders to their demise. And conversely, it is often those who disagree in a measured, reasonable and constructive way, even if they sometimes do so in a direct, uncompromising fashion, who do them the greatest service, help them move forward and prevent them from making mistakes.
“By telling FIFA that we disagree with their current proposals on the Global Nations League and the Club World Cup, we show them respect and we show respect to football, the game we love and the game we must protect.
“We sincerely hope that FIFA will also show us respect by listening to our views … UEFA and European football deserve to be respected.”
Later, after being re-elected unopposed by acclamation, Ceferin returned briefly to the theme by promising that UEFA would be “a source of constructive ideas for FIFA, rather than one of opposition – and we expect the same attitude from FIFA.”
How this will be achieved is a matter for some delicate diplomacy along the way.
UEFA’s priority is to protect the international primacy at club level of the Champions League. To that aim Ceferin, on Wednesday signed a new five-year memorandum of understanding with the European Club Association aimed to put to rest – for the time being at least – any talk of breakaway super league.
Just to emphasise the point, Ceferin stated: “While the two of us continue to lead our respective organisations, there will be no Super League. This is not a promise. It is a fact.”
Keeping clubs happy
Ceferin, addressing the clubs directly, added: “You captivate entire generations. You make football popular. This gives you rights and privileges. But this also gives you responsibilities. If you had carried out your alleged [super league] plan, your clubs would have lost their status as ‘great clubs’ in the hearts of the people.
“The only thing ‘great’ about you would have been your past, and nothing else.”
The clubs should respect all aspects and components of the football pyramid and then, concluded Ceferin, “you will not regret it.”
Presumably this means that UEFA will consider further increases in clubs’ share of competition revenues to keep them onside in any tug of war with FIFA for their loyalty.
** UEFA intends to launch its own online streaming platform to broadcast games within six months. It could include “premium live content” such as Champions League games along with youth and women’s competitions.