UEFA pick France’s le Graet to fill FIFA Council slot left vacant by Grindel

Noël Le Graët

May 30 – With FIFA’s ruling Council meeting in Paris on Monday, UEFA have been quick to bring their representation on the decision-making body up to its full quota of eight by electing veteran Frenchman Noel le Graet to replace the disgraced Reinhard Grindel.

Grindel was forced to resign last month as a UEFA vice president and as a member of the FIFA Council after being forced out as head of his federation.

The former lawmaker and journalist had come under growing pressure at home for mistakes while running the German FA and stepped down amid reports he had earned undeclared income of €78,000 from a media subsidiary. He also acknowledged accepting a luxury watch gift from a Ukrainian colleague at UEFA.

UEFA had to replace him quickly and their executive committee chose French FA boss Le Graet to fill the gap for the next nine months during a meeting in Baku ahead of the Europa League final.

Whether le Graet will be as outspoken as Grindel in opposition to FIFA’s plans to overhaul the Club World Cup remains to be seen.  The UEFA vice-president seat also vacated by Grindel has been filled by Spanish FA President Luis Rubiales.

Meantime UEFA has stepped into the row over countries unwilling to play against Kosovo.

Earlier this year Spain were stripped of hosting qualifying games of the Under-17 European Championship for refusing to recognise the national symbols of Kosovo and UEFA says this kind of behaviour cannot continue.

UEFA’s policy, said president Aleksander Ceferin, “obliges all other teams to accept to play against Kosovo national and club teams as the result of a draw, be it on their own territory or on the territory of Kosovo. Likewise Kosovo must accept to play against any other teams, home and away.”

However, Ceferin immediately provided a loophole by adding that a team hosting Kosovo can decide to play on neutral ground.

Kosovo is assured of at least a place in the Euro 2020 qualifying playoffs next March, putting it within two games of advancing to its first major tournament. Four of the 12 nations hosting games in next year’s tournament – Azerbaijan, Romania, Russia and Spain – don’t recognise Kosovo’s independence from Serbia.

In other decisions the UEFA executive committee decided to request that FIFA and law-making body IFAB review the current concussion protocol and consider potential changes – such as substitutions – to reduce the pressure on medical staff and give doctors more time to assess a potential concussion off the pitch, so that no concussed player returns to the field of play.

Ceferin, however, neatly sidestepped the most burning question of all – the latest state of play over UEFA’s plans to radically change the format of the Champions League saying simply that he hoped to call a meeting between the exco, the European Club Association and the European Leagues who oppose the clubs’ proposal.

“To be honest, nothing special is going on,” Ceferin told reporters. “Things might change, or they might not.”

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