The Slovenia Times

UEFA boss Čeferin: I respect everyone, but fear nobody


In an interview with the STA on the sidelines of a UEFA congress in Bratislava, Čeferin confirmed he would run for another term in 2019 and added that "it presently appears as if there will be no rival candidate".

Using the momentum of a new leadership style instituted since his election, Čeferin has pushed through a wide-ranging reform agenda in UEFA often with unanimous support from the national associations. He is currently eyeing changes which he says are aimed at restoring financial balance in club football.

Turning to concrete policies, more specifically to the recently signed agreement on closer cooperation with the European Commission, Čeferin said "everyone sees that the balance in European football is upset, some clubs are getting richer and richer while others are getting poorer".

"Something needs to be done about this, this is the biggest issue facing European football. Politicians in Europe are constantly urging us to do something. Because this is popular, because the fans want this."

Labelling the 1995 Bosman case, which imposed free movement of labour rules on European football, as a game-changer which has contributed to the current situation, he suggested a review of EU rules was needed. "Everyone wants changes, but EU rules are in the way."

He explained that "this is why we've started working with the European Commission", warning that "due to free movement of labour some countries are no longer able to keep young players in their clubs".

He said a push was under way to win acknowledgement from lawmakers that sport is a specific area where one should not speak of labour movement in the typical sense.

"A bigger interest is at stake... This is about health, broader social values. There is much more involved in sports and we should be able to impose certain restrictions," said Čeferin, who also noted that "the pooling of football talent only in specific countries undermines competition".

According to him, the big clubs are also starting to recognise this, which is why reforms proposed by him related to financial fair play are garnering increasing support in European football circles.

A luxury tax that would make clubs which spend excessively contribute to a shared budget is one of the proposed measures. A similar proposal was not implemented about a decade ago, but Čeferin says that times have changed, with the situation posing a threat to the quality of competition.

As a result "reactions are surprisingly positive this time around, even from the big clubs because they understand that something needs to be done".

"Your colleagues often ask me if there is too much money in football. I however feel that our EUR 4bn-plus in revenue is still too little. The problem lies in distribution, in the share spent on solidarity and development," he said, highlighting that it was UEFA's job to fix this.

He said that clubs, confronted with the fact that they have for instance only raised three local players while buying the rest, are starting to reconsider their spending and are also ready to invest more in solidarity.

"The president of one of the biggest clubs in Europe approached me recently and said this balance issue needed to be addressed because there is a risk of everything collapsing at the current rate. The time for this is ideal, because the clubs agree, the leagues agree, UEFA agrees, the fans agree," Čeferin said.

He added that the fans agreeing meant politics would have to agree too, because "fans are voters, after all".

Asked how the perception of the organisation which in the past has been the target of corruption allegations has changed since his arrival, the 50-year-old lawyer said "there had been much guessing among some of your colleagues about some kind of conspiracy" being behind his election.

"They see now that this is not the case," said the former president of the Football Association of Slovenia.

Čeferin feels his leadership style is different than that of his predecessor Michel Platini. "My leadership style is different to that of Platini. We are also different people. I say, he was a good president, but different. He was a football star, while I don't like too many media appearances. That's the way I am, it will not change."

Living by the motto "respect everyone, fear nobody", Čeferin argues that it is "not necessary to shout every day that I'm the leader" to assert oneself, since "people will see what you are and what you aren't".

"Still, it often happens that I have had to bare my teeth to certain people. When they don't know you, they are perhaps sometimes ready to go too far. But at this stage these things are very much under control," he said.

Commenting on the gradual introduction of the video assistant referee (VAR) system in matches under UEFA, Čeferin reiterated his reluctance to a quick adoption approach. He said that when UEFA decides to go down the road of adoption there will be at least a one-year introduction period so that referees are suitably prepared.

And apart from sorting out the technical questions, a whole range of questions related to video replays which have sowed a fair deal of confusion into the game will have to be resolved.

"If the referee signals offside and the game is stopped, but the replay shows there had been no offside - what do you do? Do you send the ball back and repeat the play or what do you do?," Čeferin asked.

He urged those who are pushing hard for VAR, wanting to leave their mark on the game of football, to act prudently and to take into account that the game needs to run smoothly.

"Contrary to FIFA, I'm against rushing decisions of such gravity," Čeferin said in a reference to the fact that the international governing body has decided to use the technology at this year's World Cup in Russia.

The UEFA president also commented on the Futsal Euro which was recently hosted by Slovenia, saying that the assessment in football's governing body is that "this was perhaps the best organised tournament to date".

He also announced that he was thinking about making a push for futsal becoming an Olympic sport. "I think that football is too big for the Olympics, although the current tournament format without all best players can stay, but futsal would be an interesting sport to have."

He announced that he had put the proposal to FIFA president Gianni Infantino.


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