• Ceferin favorite in UEFA presidential race

    Two candidates for the UEFA presidency, Aleksander Ceferin (left) and Michael van Praag. AFP PHOTO

    Two candidates for the UEFA presidency, Aleksander Ceferin (left) and Michael van Praag. AFP PHOTO

    ATHENS: UEFA on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) elects a new president after the banning of Michel Platini with Slovenian football leader Aleksander Ceferin the favorite to take on the task of easing tensions with Europe’s leading clubs.

    The Slovenian Football Federation chief is in contention with Dutch rival Michael van Praag to complete the five-year term of Platini who is serving a four-year suspension from all football activities imposed by FIFA over ethics breaches.

    FIFA has given the French football legend special permission to speak to the special congress in Athens before the election.

    Ceferin, 48, is believed to have more than 30 pledges of support from the 55-member UEFA, including the influential votes of Germany, France, Russia and Portugal.

    Van Praag, the head of the Dutch Football Federation and a former chairman of Ajax Amsterdam has the public backing of the English FA, Belgium and the Netherlands.

    Spain’s Angel Maria Villar, UEFA’s acting president since Platini resigned in May, withdrew his candidacy last week.

    The winner will get only the two remaining years of Platini’s time in office before a new election in 2018.

    The Congress starts at 0700 GMT and the result could be known by 0900 GMT.

    Discontent over reforms
    On top of overcoming the scandal of losing Platini, the new leader will have to confront discontent over reforms to the Champions League from 2018 that will see England, Germany, Italy and Spain guaranteed four clubs in the main contest each season.

    Bernard Caiazzo, president of France’s Premiere Ligue, has called the move “a disaster” and “a scandal”.

    The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) has angrily condemned the reforms. “This decision will have a detrimental impact on domestic competitions and will lead to an exponential growth in the financial and sporting gap between the biggest clubs in Europe and all the others,” the group said.

    UEFA has also yet to end speculation that Europe’s biggest clubs could breakaway to form their own competition.

    Some leagues have also acknowledged they have held contacts with China’s Wanda group, a top FIFA sponsor as well as holder of a major stake in Atletico Madrid, on a possible rival to the Champions League.

    “If (European competition) is reorganized as Wanda has set out, there is a greater opportunity to generate more revenue from audiovisual broadcasting,” Javier Tebas, president of Spain’s La Liga told the Financial Times last week.

    Platini was told this week that he would be allowed to speak to the UEFA congress even though he is serving a suspension over a suspect $2 million payment made by FIFA in 2011 for work carried out a decade earlier.

    The Frenchman and former FIFA leader Sepp Blatter are under investigation by Swiss prosecutors over the payment. Both have denied any wrongdoing but all their appeals to FIFA and the Court of Arbitration for Sport have been turned down.

    It is not known what Platini will be allowed to say to the Congress, but the decision to let him speak has not pleased all of UEFA’s members.

    Reinhard Grindel, president of the German football federation said: “The UEFA Congress should showcase the programme of its new president and not the mistakes of his predecessor.”

    “I would have preferred Michel Platini not to have put in an appearance. This Congress must focus on the future, not the past,” he added.



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