Though the location of Aleksander Ceferin’s hall of mirrors show just a dozen miles from Versailles. May have been appropriate, the fallout from last Thursday’s events may not be at all illusory. Though partially timed to surprise his skeptics, the Uefa president’s stunning declaration that he did not, in the end, intend to run for an unprecedented fourth term only served to heighten concerns about the organization’s future.
There would have been no talk about the election of a new leader in 2027 at this stage if Ceferin had not chosen to push for a change to Uefa’s term limitations. This was the inevitable moment for him to resign. After a slew of scandals, the Slovenian may have been able to build on his reign’s more positive aspects and leave on somewhat of a high note.
Rather, he permitted the situation to become murky at a time when many people both inside and outside the organization concur is the worst imaginable. Repeating remarks made three weeks earlier, Ceferin declared that he was “tired of Covid, two wars, and the nonsense projects of the so-called Super League.” However, at least two of those issues still exist, and he still has three quarters of a four-year mandate remaining. If given enough oxygen, the last one still runs the potential of being an existential threat to the sport, and European football cannot afford to have a leader who is losing motivation.
His remarks will have had a profound effect on A22, the organization spearheading the Super League initiative. A22 has been networking widely among Europe’s small and medium-sized teams since late last year; this group seems to be a crucial battleground in the fight for football’s future, but it has also been quite active in the streets of Brussels. Workers at the European Commission, as well as those pressuring them to take a strong stance on flaws in Uefa’s administration, would not have overlooked Ceferin’s assertion that he waited six months to make his decision not to stand in order to “see the real face of some people.”
Whether or not Ceferin is believed, and there are others in his inner circle who don’t believe him, he might later regret voicing such illogical reasoning in public. Additionally, there’s always the chance that insiders will feel their allegiances are misplaced. Following the majority approval of his changes, he said that media outlets, such as the Guardian, ought to feel “a bit embarrassed” about covering differences within Uefa.
However, since the congress last week, it has come to light that the news of Ceferin’s departure surprised many members of the executive committee, including some of the most devoted ones. A synchronized briefing was absent. It’s also reported that certain federations were, to put it mildly, dissatisfied that they weren’t informed beforehand. A culture of trust and cooperation is not fostered by any of this.
Should Ceferin have attempted to intimidate opponents, the Football Association, acting as the only voice opposing his proposed legislation amendments, voluntarily intervened. The Football Association made a point of emphasizing that their decision, which supported vice-president and UEFA treasurer David Gill’s position, was based on values rather than individual members.
However, it seemed noteworthy that Fifa had publicly swum against the tide for the first time since 2011, when the organization’s then-chairman, David Bernstein, called for Sepp Blatter’s reelection as president to be suspended in an effort to reform the listing global body.