UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin will continue at the helm of European football for the next four years after being re-elected for a second term of office at the 43rd UEFA Ordinary Congress in Rome.
The 51-year old Slovenian, who was elected as UEFA’s seventh President in September 2016, was confirmed in office by acclamation on Thursday by delegates from UEFA’s 55 member associations, and pledged that “unity, hope, respect and solidarity” would be key elements in UEFA’s strategy, mission and activities during the next term of his presidency.
European football, he said, should remain “respectful, respectable and respected.”
“Thank you once again for placing your trust in me,” Mr Čeferin told the associations’ delegates. “I am both touched and honoured.”
Mr Čeferin insisted that, despite recent successes and positive developments, in particular concerning the spirit of unity that was prevailing across European football, UEFA would not tread water in fulfilling its role as the governing body of the game on this continent. “The most dangerous thing we could do is to rest on our laurels and bask in our current situation,” he reflected. “We are in a fairly remarkable position, but that is not enough.
“In a world of constant and increasingly rapid change, where time seems to go ever faster and every day brings a fresh challenge, we are going to have to do more than simply adapt. We are going to have to think ahead and undertake some major developments.
“We must not allow our recent short-term successes to hide the much more complex challenges that lie ahead.”
Turning to on-field matters, the UEFA President emphasised the important status of Europe’s major national team competitions – the UEFA EURO and the UEFA Nations League. The latter he said, was promising to be a resounding success, while UEFA EURO 2020 – to be staged in 12 cities across Europe next summer – will send out “a strong message not only to football lovers, but to Europe as a whole; the message of an open, tolerant and united Europe.”
Women’s football, he promised, will be taken to a new level thanks to the UEFA Women’s EURO in England in 2021.
Mr Čeferin insisted that UEFA will also meet the many challenges that it faced off the pitch in pursuing its new strategy for the 2019–24 period, and will work closely with major stakeholders to fashion a bright tomorrow for European football.
“We will work hand in hand with our partner, the ECA [European Club Association], to design the club competitions of the future. Club competitions that are in keeping with the times, full of excitement and intensity, and open; a new type of competition that will bring a different dimension to European football, but still based on two principles on which we will not give way. Clubs from all 55 member associations will have the opportunity to take part, and qualification will be based on sporting merit.”
The UEFA President underlined that UEFA would seek to nurture a fruitful relationship with the world body FIFA. “We will be a source of constructive ideas for FIFA, rather than one of opposition,” he explained. “We are ready to work with the world governing body to ensure that football remains the world’s number one sport, and that Europe continues to lead the way.”
Mr Čeferin said that a major challenge in the years ahead would involve making football more accessible to all fans across the planet, thanks to exciting new digital platforms.
“This is why I am pleased to announce that UEFA will be launching its OTT platform in the next six months,” he said. “We are fully aware that a revolution is under way, and are in the process of agreeing historic partnerships with the world’s leading companies in this field.
“We have already started to move in this direction thanks to a sponsorship deal with the Alibaba Group. This partnership is more than a simple sponsorship deal. It’s a first agreement that opens up new horizons, such as the creation of a centre of excellence in new football technologies or joint e-commerce projects.
“Together, we are inventing the future, and our only limit is our imagination.”
The UEFA President said that focus would be given to grassroots football and education, while concerted work would be devoted to making ‘football fairer’ through the further development of the financial fair play system that has helped restore stability to European club football.
“We will adapt the financial fair play rules to establish a new European balance in which everyone can find their rightful place,” he explained. “The initial objectives of financial fair play have been achieved. European clubs are financially healthier than ever, the problem of debt has been sorted out in many countries, and unpaid debts owed to clubs, coaches and players seem to be becoming nothing more than a bad memory.
“Now it is time to move to the second phase of this major European project, in consultation with the ECA, so that every European club can exploit its full development potential.”
Mr Čeferin sounded a note of caution in relation to the work that lay ahead – “Please don’t expect any miracles,” he said. “History always tends to repeat itself, and anyone who claims they can change the course of history simply by waving a magic wand is either a dreamer or a charlatan.
“How can we perform miracles when we know the problem of competitive balance has always been in existence? When we live in a world where 1% of the population owns more than 50% of the planet’s wealth?
“How can we perform miracles in a society racked with doubt, where an inward-looking attitude seems to be the only way to survive? Where the desire to put up walls is stronger than the desire to build bridges, and where helping yourself has become more important than helping others?
“What I can promise,” the UEFA President concluded, “is that, during this next term of office, we will work together to ensure that European football remains united, that European football remains respectful, respectable and respected, and that European football continues to demonstrate solidarity and bring hope.
“We will ensure that European football goes against the flow – rather than following the trends we see in Europe today.”