By Andrew Warshaw
April 19 – An incensed UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin (pictured) launched a withering attack on the “disgraceful, self-serving” organisers of the new European Super League today, ruling out any possible negotiation, promising that players who take part will be banned and reserving his strongest rebuke for Juventus boss Andrea Agnelli who he accused of repeatedly lying over his true intentions.
In what has been by far the toughest 24 hours for the Slovenian since his election in 2016, Ceferin came out fighting at a news conference that followed UEFA’s executive committee meeting in Switzerland as he took question after question about the dangerous and potentially highly damaging challenge to the Champions League.
The press conference was supposed to be about UEFA’s overhaul of its club competitions from 2024 which have taken months to draw up but instead inevitably focussed on the events of the previous 24 hours.
“Teams will always qualify for our competitions on merit, not a closed shop run by a greedy select few,” Ceferin, speaking publicly for the first time since the Super League initiative was officially announced, told over 140 reporters watching by video-conference.
“UEFA and the football world stand united against this disgraceful, self-serving proposal …from a select few clubs fuelled purely by greed above all else. We are all united against this nonsense of a project. We are all opposed to this cynical plan.”
Rarely has the leader of FIFA or UEFA spoken with such powerful vitriol but Ceferin, whilst outwardly calm, was clearly outraged at being so blatantly let down.
“Players who will play in these teams will be banned from playing the World Cup and Euros so they will not be able to represent their national teams,” he declared before clarifying it was too soon to announce a timeline and whether sanctions would be in place by this summer’s delayed Euros. Much depended on the legal situation, said Ceferin, but players from the 12 renegade clubs should be banned “as soon as possible”.
Urging fans, media, politicians and governing bodies to support his organisation, Ceferin said UEFA would do “everything in our power to make sure this never comes to fruition.
“For some people, solidarity doesn’t exist, unity doesn’t exist. The only thing that exists is their pockets. It is a spit in the face of all football lovers and we will never allow them to take our values away.”
Insisting the Champions League was nowhere near to collapse, Ceferin said the competition would take place regardless. “We will do it with or without them.”
Although reporters were attending via Zoom, there must have been a collective moment of incredulity when Ceferin addressed the role of Agnelli, who has resigned as president of the European Clubs Association which for so long insisted it wanted to work with UEFA, not against it, and had unanimously endorsed UEFA’s blueptrint for change only last Friday.
Agnelli and Manchester United’s Ed Woodward were two of those who had backed the plan, said Ceferin, only to disguise their real objectives.
“I’ve seen many things in my life,” said Ceferin, a criminal lawyer by profession, “But I have never ever seen people like this. Agnelli has to be one of the biggest disappointments, in fact THE biggest.
“I’ve met a few liars and many good people in football. I don’t want to get too personal but the fact is I have never seen a person lie so many times, so persistently, as he did.
“It was unbelievable. I spoke to him Saturday afternoon and he said, don’t worry, nothing is going on. He said he’d call me again in an hour but turned off the phone. The next day we got the Super League announcement.
“All the world knows now. Greediness is so strong that all human values evaporate with some people. This is about greed, selfishness and narcissism. Nothing else.”
Insisting there was no room for negotiation over the future of the Champions League which will turn into a league format and produce 100 more games, Ceferin concluded: “I wouldn’t call them the ‘dirty dozen’ but they want to steal football from our society.”
“We didn’t know we had snakes working close to us, but now we know. In a way I’m pleased this happened because now I know who is honest and who is who. They only care about being famous. But they will be famous in the wrong way.”
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