New UEFA boss will face tough start as President with European football split over Champions League

UEFA President Michel Platini
UEFA President Michel Platini

For the uninformed, UEFA will be choosing a new president on Wednesday, whose primary task will be to stop what European authorities say is an inflexible slide towards a breakaway football Super League open just to richer clubs, like Real Madrid and Chelsea.

Slovenian Aleksander Ceferin, a legal advisor from Slovenia, and Dutchman Michael van Praag, an accomplished football director, are the men seeking election to replace the disgraced Michel Platini.

The victor’s primary task will be to keep European football in place in its present structure. The new president will take office on Wednesday and will immediately walk into a lot of mess and will have a lot of answering to do. The central question will be whether UEFA is becoming terrified of big clubs, and are becoming ready to appease them at any cost.

Michel Platini was banned last October as FIFA’s ethics committee investigated assertions of exploitative behaviour. He finally resigned in May, and the power vacuum in those months allowed the “bigger” clubs to negotiate the changes for a rival “Super League”.

A month ago, UEFA opened up more places for Europe’s big four countries, essentially Spain, England, Germany and Italy, and this is due to come into effect in 2018-19. As mentioned before, the proposal is to set aside more places for teams from the top four leagues and fewer for clubs from smaller leagues.

UEFA previously did make a statement after many expressed their concern, claiming they had figured out how to “keep it in the family”. However, this move unmistakably managed to incense numerous clubs and associations from outside these major nations.

On Sunday night, Europe’s big leagues wrote to the two candidates urging them to scrap these changes, which will favour affluent clubs, to the Champions League.

Whoever is the victor of the elections, will have to have the courage to stand up to the big clubs if he wants to keep the traditional pyramid system, where teams can rise and fall according to their sporting results.

The fact that both the candidates are from smaller countries makes the likelihood of a traditional system of the European competition being kept alive more plausible, and a “Super League”, basically redundant.

The presidential election in Athens is down to a contest between Aleksander Ceferin and 68-year-old UEFA vice president Michael van Praag of the Netherlands and what is encouraging is that Ceferin, the favourite to win the election has already said that a new Super League is out of the question.

“The problem is we didn’t know anything that was going on — that shouldn’t happen again,” Ceferin said in Athens on Tuesday. “It’s not frustrating just for me; it’s frustrating for all 55 national associations.

“It is a bargaining chip,” said Ceferin, the Slovenian federation president. “I am sure they do not want to leave UEFA and UEFA’s competitions. It would be boring to play in some closed league, and it will mean war with UEFA.

“They pushed it more because we didn’t have any leadership and that was a problem with UEFA. But at the same time they are very important stakeholders, they bring a lot of money to UEFA, and we have to sit down with them — 55 associations and clubs — and talk about how we should do it in the future.”

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