By Andrew Warshaw in Paris
February 8 – In a dramatic move that took most of his supporters as well as his critics totally by surprise, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin announced today that he would be stepping down in 2027, ending months of speculation about his intentions.
Ceferin chose a post-Congress press conference rather than his 55 member federations to disclose that he would not be seeking a fourth term despite the approval of a series of reforms that would technically enable him to extend his mandate.
“I decided around six months ago that I’m not planning to run in 2027 anymore,” Ceferin told reporters. “The reason is that after some time, every organisation needs fresh blood, but mainly because I was away from my family for seven years now.”
With even his own assembled communications team seemingly having no idea of what was about to unfold, Ceferin’s announcement came shortly after UEFA member nations voted overwhelmingly in favour of a series of the statute amendments, including the measure that would have allowed him to potentially stay in his role until 2031.
The 12-year term limit at UEFA was personally brought in by Ceferin as an anti-corruption move in the fallout from the FifaGate scandal. The new amendment would have meant that any appointment before 2017 would not be counted as part of the allowable three terms because Ceferin took charge during Michel Platini’s four-year term.
Critics cried foul, not least his former director of football Zvonimir Boban who suddenly quit last month interpreting Ceferin’s push to change the statutes as a power grab.
Boban had accused the Slovenian of pursuing his “personal aspirations” while a handful of others agreed, including the English FA which was the only member to vote against the statutes in Congress today – ultimately shooting themselves in the foot in a major own goal as Ceferin called all their various bluffs.
The FA had earlier tried to have a separate vote on the specific term limit amendment rather than voting on all of the changes together. That move was also spectacularly unsuccessful, with only Norway and Iceland voting with the English plus two abstentions.
None of the assorted scribes had the slightest clue that Ceferin was going to make his bombshell announcement just one hour after steering through the new legal rules.
“I intentionally didn’t want to disclose my thoughts before, because firstly, I wanted to see the real face of some people and I saw it, good and bad,” said Ceferin, first elected in 2016 following the downfall of Platini. “I have a beautiful life in football, I have a beautiful life outside of football as well.”
Saying he was “tired of COVID, tired of two wars, tired of self-proclaimed moral authorities” and of plans for a rival Super League that he called a “nonsense project”, Ceferin took only three questions from the floor, rushing off to tell the federations about his decision and leaving his number two, Theodore Theodoridis, to take remaining questions.
The burning one was why Ceferin had made his move in front of the media rather than first telling UEFA’s 55-nation congress which would have appeared the obvious platform and a more conventional scenario in terms of protocol. Perhaps it was to hit back at those who had questioned his motives.
He couldn’t resist, for instance, taking a barb at one opponent when he spoke of an unnamed European official who made a “pathetic cry about morality” in a “narcissistic letter” to member federations.
“It was actually amusing to watch all this hysteria,” said Ceferin, his target almost certainly being Boban who had been one of his inner circle at UEFA.
“He was actually one of the people who knew I was not planning to run again,” said Ceferin cryptically. “He couldn’t wait because he knew that after my disclosure his whining would no longer make any sense. Think about whose personal aspirations are actually in question here.”
Further playing to his audience, Cefertin, who came to power eight years ago on a platform of reform, continued: “I have read UEFA is divided, that it is fragmented beyond repair. (But) the statutes had to be changed or term limits would not exist at all. Many articles were published without anyone asking me anything.
“It was my decision if I wanted to run. I can always look myself in the mirror.”
And after seven minutes he was gone, leaving some with a considerable amount of egg on their collective faces.
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