Re-elected UEFA president Ceferin goes on offensive against Super League rebels

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Re-elected UEFA president Ceferin goes on offensive against Super League rebels

UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland
UEFA headquarters in Nyon, SwitzerlandReuters
Aleksander Ceferin (55) railed against the rebel clubs backing a breakaway European Super League, likening the project to "Little Red Riding Hood", as he was re-elected unopposed for a third term as UEFA president on Wednesday.

The Slovenian lawyer, first elected in 2016 following the downfall of Frenchman Michel Platini (67), will now remain in the role until 2027.

"I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your unanimous support. It really means a lot to me," Ceferin told delegates after being re-elected by acclamation at the UEFA Congress in Lisbon.

"It is a great honour but mainly it is a great, great responsibility, towards you and towards football."

The UEFA Congress came just a few weeks after Gianni Infantino (53) was re-elected as president of the sport's world governing body FIFA, also unopposed.

Ceferin recently successfully opposed proposals by Infantino to hold the World Cup every two years, and his re-election comes after he also fought off the breakaway Super League project during his second term.

He will now oversee the introduction of a new format for the Champions League starting next year.

However, the Super League is not dead yet, with Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus continuing to pursue the project.

A lawsuit has been launched against UEFA and FIFA at the European Court of Justice, accusing the governing bodies of abusing their power by threatening to expel clubs and players interested in joining a breakaway league.

A final ruling is expected in the coming weeks, although the court's advocate general, whose opinions are often followed by judges, provided a first ruling favourable to UEFA in December.

"Those who promote this project are now claiming that they want to save football," Ceferin said before evoking one of the most famous European fairy tales.

"In the space of a few months, the so-called Super League has turned into a character in Little Red Riding Hood, a wolf disguised as a grandmother ready to eat you up."

Opposing world views

"Is anybody fooled? Here we have two opposing world views, cynicism over morality, selfishness over solidarity, greed over benevolence, shameful lies over the truth, cartel over meritocracy and democracy, the quest for profit over the quest for trophies.

"Domestic leagues must remain the foundation of football," added Ceferin, who also thanked the powerful European Club Association, presided over by Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser al-Khelaifi, for backing UEFA against the Super League.

The new Champions League format will be introduced from the 2024/25 season, with the number of clubs involved in the group stage increasing from 32 to 36 teams all playing in one pool using what is known as the Swiss system.

The new format will see all participants play eight matches against eight different opponents.

Currently, the group stage is divided into eight sections of four teams playing each other home and away.

While he seeks to calm tensions with Infantino, who also addressed the meeting in Lisbon, Ceferin will in addition be able to focus on pursuing the planned introduction of new Financial Fair Play rules.

Clubs will be forced to limit spending on player and staff wages, transfers and agents fees to 70 per cent of total revenues by 2025/26.

Ceferin has also raised the possibility of relaxing rules that currently prevent clubs with the same owners from facing each other in European competitions.

However, on Wednesday he said UEFA had no solutions to that matter at the moment.

UEFA holds off on banning Belarus

UEFA held off taking any decision to ban Belarus from its competitions due to its support of Russia's invasion of Ukraine at its meeting in Lisbon this week despite pressure from EU lawmakers.

The item was on the agenda of an executive committee meeting of European football's governing body but for now, Belarus has only been stripped of the hosting rights of the 2025 Women's Under-19 European Championship.

That means its clubs can still compete in European competitions, and the country's senior men's national team can continue to take part in Euro 2024 qualifying.

"I said the matter would be discussed and I also said that only the executive committee could make a decision and nobody else," said UEFA president Ceferin.

"We had a discussion, we have taken away the organisation of the Women's Under-19 European Championship.

"For the rest, we will study the situation and we will see what we decide at the next executive committee meeting on June 28."

In mid-March, more than a hundred EU lawmakers called on UEFA to expel Belarus.

Russia was expelled from all club and international competitions by UEFA last year following the invasion, but Belarus is involved in the qualifiers for Euro 2024, which it began with losses to Switzerland and Romania last month.

They are due to play further qualifiers against Israel and Kosovo in June.

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