After months of crisis and a power vacuum, UEFA finally has a new president. Whether everything will change for the better under Aleksander Ceferin is somewhat doubtful, writes Andreas Sten-Ziemons.
European football's governing body has a new president. After the ignominious departure of former President Michel Platini, who FIFA banned from all football-related activities for corruption, many are placing high hopes in Aleksander Ceferin. However, his reign starts with some familiar flaws, such as allegations of questionable deals and "nepotism" hanging in the air. There have been whispers that Ceferin has pledged his support for a common Nordic bid to host the 2028 European championship. The Danes, Norwegians, Swedes and Finns had been campaigning for the first Ceferin. An adviser to FIFA President Gianni Infantino is said to have been pulling strings for the presidential candidate, and also Russia and its controversial federation boss, Vitaly Mutko, are said to have been driving forces behind the scenes. Since public support from Mutko doesn't tend to go over well these days, the Scandinavians, with their reputation for being friendly people of integrity were the first to go public with their support.
Ceferin has repeatedly denied any fiddling behind the scenes, but it sure looks as if the new UEFA president is resorting to the same methods as his predecessor, which the organization is meant to be trying to put behind it.
Good agenda, bad agenda
Ceferin's agenda isn't bad, the question is, whether he can or will actually implement it. To do so, he would require the support of the member associations, whose support for the reform plans can by no means be assured. Many of Ceferin's objectives are similar to those of his opponent, Michael van Praag.
After the 2020 European championship, which is to be spread among 13 countries, the new president wants to see the 2024 tournament hosted by a single nation. He also says he intends to crack down on doping, corruption and betting fraud. All of this sounds good.
No ethics committee, too close to Platini
However, Ceferin's agenda is not all good. As president of the Slovenian FA, he has criticized the latest reform of the UEFA Champions League, which stands to make the rich clubs even richer. However, he has not pledged to fight to ensure that these measures are reversed when the three-year arrangement expires in 2021.
After all, Ceferin argues, the recently adopted reform is still better than a super-league of the best clubs in Europe - beyond UEFA's jurisdiction. This does not indicate that he has the courage or is willing to stand up to the men behind Europe's most powerful clubs.
He also doesn't appear to be prepared to change the much-criticized practice of letting the small circle that is the Executive Committee determine who get the right to host a European championship. This could also be the reason that the German FA (DFB), which originally planned to support van Praag, swapped around and joined the Ceferin camp. DFB President Reinhard Grindel said the change of heart was due to the fact that Ceferin is younger and has better prospects. However, there have also been whispers indicating that a pledge by the new president to back a German bid to the European championship in 2024 could have helped win them over. If Germany were actually to win the right to host the 2024 European championship, such rumors would certainly make the rounds again. Remember the Russia's successful bid for the 2018 World Cup? Or Qatar's for 2022?
Finally, Ceferin seems to lack distance to his predecessor. "Michel Platini has achieved great things for the medium and small organizations, and was a charismatic leader," Ceferin gushed prior to the election. In Platini's controversial farewell speech at the UEFA Congress in Athens, the former UEFA president was utterly unapologetic, admitting no mistakes. Ceferin applauded, as did the other delegates.
Prior to his election, Aleksander Ceferin proclaimed that: "things have to change. We need a new wind, new ideas, and I am the right one for that..." Now it's time for him to put his money where his mouth is.