Uefa chief Aleksander Ceferin faces questions over alleged plan to pay Michel Platini
NEW Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin has dismissed allegations about his record in Slovenian football and promised that Europe's governing body would not make any illegal or unethical payments to banned predecessor Michel Platini.
Ceferin was speaking at the launch of the branding for Euro 2020 at London's City Hall in what was his first public appearance since being elected in Athens last week. When asked about recent allegations by Norwegian football magazine Josimar that question gaps in his CV before becoming the president of Slovenia's FA and claim a loan from Uefa that was intended for football development was actually used to buy shares in a lottery company, Ceferin flatly rejected them.
"No, that's another joke from the same media [outlet]," the 48-year-old lawyer said, referring to Josimar's earlier story alleging he was the beneficiary of Fifa president Gianni Infantino's lobbying.
"[The loan] is completely clear and Uefa has all the documents. And I even wasn't involved in this. I expected some stories from the same people who didn't want me to become president."
Ceferin was also unequivocal when asked about reports supporters of Platini within Uefa wanted to award the 61-year-old Frenchman a handsome pay-off for his nine years in charge of the organisation. That reign came to an abrupt end when the former midfield maestro was banned from football last December, for receiving a "disloyal payment" of £1.3million from former Fifa boss Sepp Blatter in 2011.
Both men were originally banned by a Fifa ethics committee for eight years, but two subsequent appeals have reduced Platini's sanction to four years without clearing him: "Look, I heard about the situation yesterday and I have a meeting with the administration about it on Monday," said Ceferin in regards to Platini's alleged pay-off talks.
"But I assure you that we will not do anything illegal or unethical."
When it was pointed out Blatter had not received a settlement from Fifa after his ban, Ceferin said: "Who said [Platini] should receive a pay-off? I didn't say he should receive a pay-off."
Shortly before the exchange with journalists, Ceferin had been on more comfortable territory, talking about the "unique and memorable tournament" Platini has bequeathed to him with Euro 2020. Shared between 13 cities across the continent, with London hosting the last three games, the tournament's 16th edition will certainly be different. Platini wanted it that way to celebrate its 60th birthday.
With London mayor Sadiq Khan, England manager Sam Allardyce and new English Football Association chairman Greg Clarke in the audience, Ceferin made all the right noises about England's status as the "birthplace of the game" and said fans "will flock to this remarkable city" for a "fittingly momentous climax".
This enthusiasm for the project was all the more impressive considering he has expressed his doubts about the format, describing it as a "risk". He was far more diplomatic on Wednesday, saying "let's see" how things go, but he did confirm the multi-city approach was a one-off.
On the European game's other pressing format issue, the reforms to the Champions League, Ceferin was more coy. Last month, Uefa announced a deal had been reached with Europe's most powerful clubs to change how the prize money is allocated and, most importantly, give Europe's four best leagues 16 of the 32 places in the Champions League group stages.
This plan, which is scheduled to start from 2018, is a significant increase from the 11 guaranteed berths the Bundesliga, LaLiga, the Premier League and Serie A currently get, with four more teams having to come through a knock-out round. It has been suggested Ceferin, who has said he is not happy about how this deal was agreed, has been told by Uefa's 55 member associations there is no appetite to unpick the plan, although that was not the impression given on Wednesday.
"Of course it's not good for the small and medium-sized federations, but yesterday was my first day [in the office in Nyon] and I have to check what are the pluses and minuses of that decision," Ceferin said.
"And there are pluses and minuses. But I need to examine it and then act. Everything can change."