By Andrew Warshaw
February 9 – Aleksander Ceferin’s surprise announcement not to stand for re-election for the UEFA presidency in 2027 overshadowed other key business on the agenda of UEFA’s Congress in Paris.
The statutory change permitting Čeferin an extension on his presidency – had he decided to go for it – was bundled into a wider reform package, which crucially included doubling the number of women who sit on UEFA’s executive committee from one to two, the removal of the age limit of 70 for anyone seeking election plus clarification over the jurisdiction and consequences for potential breakaway competitions such as a European Super League.
The English FA was the only UEFA member to hold up a red card against the implementation of the final reform package, having earlier tried equally unsuccessfully to have a separate vote on the specific term limit amendment.
Norway and Iceland had also wanted a separate vote but when that failed took the precaution of not objecting to the entire package as a whole being approved.
An English FA spokeswoman insisted their decision was not about personality but about principle.
“We were supportive of the statute changes proposed by UEFA, with the exception of one – the proposed new wording on term limits,” she was quoted as saying.
“We believe that it was always intended that a principle of three terms of four years should be a maximum period for any UEFA Exco member to serve. We have recently implemented governance changes of our own and think it’s important that we are consistent in our approach.
“We requested and voted for the statute change to be tabled separately, but this was not supported by a sufficient majority and we respect that. We support all the other statute changes tabled at Congress but, because they were tabled in a single bundle, we have voted against all of them.”
Principle or not, the somewhat naïve explanation is bound to be interpreted in some quarters as something of an own goal given that the amendments crucially involved increased roles within the UEFA hierarchy for women, a growing element in the diversity programmes of many sports, not just football.
Indeed Ceferin made reference to this in his post-Congress press conference that has already entered the annals of football politics as being the forum for his totally unexpected announcement that he will not be running again – a move that immediately led to claim and counter-claim about how and why the Slovenian broke the news in terms of both timing and motive and which will no doubt go on for weeks and months, if not years.
“If you didn’t know, we also added a female position, the changing of the statutes was also about the female position,” Ceferin made a deliberate point of telling reporters.
“Now just a suggestion for you, maybe since I see all the men here, you should think about gender equality, as sports journalists as well, I don’t see many articles about that.”
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