(ATR) Aleksander Ceferin of Slovenia defeated Dutch FA president Michael van Praag by 42 votes to 13 to secure the UEFA presidency.
The Slovenian lawyer’s campaign to replace the disgraced former UEFA chief Michel Platini had gathered momentum in recent days. He was predicted to win by a large margin last night ahead of the election at today’s extraordinary congress in Athens.
The 48-year-old, who is largely unknown in global football, will serve the remaining years of Platini’s term to 2019. He had used his speech to appeal to the smaller nations of UEFA’s 55 members. But he also won support from the powerhouses of European football including France, Germany and Italy.
Ceferin vowed to lead UEFA into an era of "stability, hope, balance and friendship", adding that he was "a team player – I am not a showman. I am ready to deliver the projects to take UEFA to a new level".
After his victory, he said: "It is a great honor, but also a great responsibility.
"It means a lot to me. My small and beautiful Slovenia is very proud of it, and I hope that one day you will also be proud of me," added Ceferin, who was elected head of the Slovenian FA in 2011. He has also served as a second and third vice-chairman of the UEFA Legal Committee since 2011.
Van Praag was gracious in defeat. "Aleksander and I have the same goal," said Van Praag. "We want a different UEFA, we want a better UEFA. But he wanted to do it his way and I wanted to do it my way."
In a statement, the European Club Association congratulated Ceferin on his election, saying it looked forward "to continuing the constructive collaboration based on mutual respect and unity with Europe’s football governing body under his leadership".
Ceferin said his top priority was to address Champions League reforms agreed by UEFA’s executive committee last month. From 2018, the top four leagues – the Bundesliga, La Liga, the Premier League and Serie A – will benefit from four guaranteed group-stage places.
"I will have to sit down with all 55 national associations to see what is the agreement and what we can do in the future about it," he told a press conference after his victory over Van Praag. "Either I want it or not, I will have to deal with it and that will be the first thing to deal with."
The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) last week vented their anger at the revamp of the Champions League and Europa League.The EPFL described as "unacceptable" the way UEFA had handled the process "without the support and consensus" of the organizers of domestic league football in Europe. The leagues body said UEFA’s decision breached the MoU between the two organizations and would 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".
Platini Bids Farewell
Michel Platini, banned for four years from football over a "disloyal" $2 million payment he received from former FIFA chief Sepp Blatter in 2011, told the UEFA congress that he had a "clear conscience".
FIFA’s ethics committee had allowed Platini to bid farewell to UEFA, despite his ban from world football activities over financial misconduct.
"Be assured that I have a clear conscience, that I’m convinced I did not make the slightest mistake and that I’m continuing the legal battle," said the man who was seen as a potential successor to Blatter last year before his FIFA ban in December ended his hopes.
"I want to thank everyone in this room who had the courage and loyalty to support me during the past months. For millions of people around the world, football is a flame. We have done much together for nine years to develop and preserve this flame."
UEFA Elects Woman to FIFA
Evelina Christillin of Italy was today elected as the UEFA female member on the FIFA Council. A former member of the Italian national women's Alpine skiing team, she was involved in the organization of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin. Christillin was executive president of the bid committee and a vice-president of the Torino Organising Committee (TOROC).
Christillin, who has also been a board member of the Italian National Olympic Committee, was involved in the 100th anniversary of Juventus.
Written by Mark Bisson
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