The English Football Association (FA) is set to vote against a set of amendments to UEFA’s rulebook at the organisation’s congress in Paris on Thursday because it includes a change that will let UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin stand for a fourth term.
Ceferin has run European football’s governing body since 2016, when his predecessor Michel Platini was banned from the game for his part in the corruption scandals that engulfed football politics in 2015.
Elected on a reform ticket, Ceferin introduced a three-term limit for all senior roles at UEFA in 2017 and made it clear, in several interviews, that his first term should count towards that total. This was despite it only being three years, not the usual four, because of Platini’s abrupt exit.
But at a meeting of UEFA’s executive committee in Hamburg in December, Ceferin announced that the term-limit rules were so poorly drafted that his first term did not count towards the limit, which meant his 12-year clock should start in 2019, when he was elected unopposed for a second term.
A lawyer by trade, the Slovenian, 56, said the rules would need to be amended at the next congress, which would formalise this change in his effective start-date and enable him to stand for another four-year term in 2027.
UEFA treasure David Gill, a former chief executive at Manchester United, voiced his opposition to this change at the meeting in Hamburg but that was as far as his rebellion went.
Zvonimir Boban, the former Croatia and AC Milan star, was the first to truly break ranks when he quit as UEFA’s chief of football last month, issuing a coruscating statement that accused Ceferin of acting “in pursuit of his personal aspirations”.
Boban added: “I am not trying to be some sort of hero, especially as I am not alone in my thinking here.”
And for a week or so, it seemed that Boban might be right, as rumours circulated that several of UEFA’s 55 member associations were deeply unimpressed with what they saw as Ceferin’s naked attempt to hang onto power.
But now, on the eve of congress, the revolt appears to have fizzled out to a lone vote of opposition from the English FA, which finds itself in the difficult position of voting against a bundle of reforms that it largely agrees with but cannot support because of the most high-profile change.
It had been hoping to unbundle these reforms, which include a commitment to increasing female representation on UEFA’s various committees, but UEFA has refused, turning Friday’s vote into an all-or-nothing choice.
The English have reluctantly chosen nothing, as they believe the spirit of the 2017 reforms were clear and Ceferin’s three-term limit had already started.
The FA and UEFA declined to comment when contacted by The Athletic.
(DANIEL ROLAND/AFP via Getty Images)
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