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Aleksander Ceferin to not stand for re-election as UEFA president in 2027

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin will not stand for a fourth term in 2027, despite winning a contentious vote on the matter at the European governing body’s annual congress in Paris on Thursday.

The 56-year-old Slovenian, who was first elected in 2016, made the announcement in a highly-charged media conference after the vote, ending two months of speculation about his plans.

Ceferin first raised the possibility of continuing beyond 2027, when his third term expires, at meeting of the organisation’s executive committee (ExCo) in Hamburg in December. That led UEFA treasurer David Gill to point out that it would be against the spirit of the three-term limit that Ceferin introduced in 2017.

Opposition to Ceferin’s move, which he insisted was to correct a procedural mistake that invalidated the term limits, burst out into the open last month when Zvonimir Boban quit as UEFA’s chief of football in protest against what he saw as the president’s attempt to cling onto power.

In a blistering personal attack, the former Croatia and AC Milan star said: “Despite having expressed my deepest concern and total disapproval, the UEFA president does not consider there to be any legal issues with the proposed changes, let alone any moral or ethical ones, and he intends to move forward regardless in pursuit of his personal aspirations.”

When asked about his post-2027 intentions in several media interviews after Boban’s resignation, Ceferin said he had not decided what he would do but reiterated the point that UEFA’s statutes would have to be amended by congress for the term limits to apply at all.

That message clearly resonated with most of UEFA’s member associations but not all of them, as the English Football Association (FA) refused to back the package of statute amendments proposed at congress because it included the clarification that the three-term limit should only apply to terms started after 2017.

In the only moment of drama during an otherwise uneventful congress, English FA chief executive Mark Bullingham held up his red card after 53 delegates had raised their green cards. Ukraine’s FA used their orange card, to signal they were abstaining in what was widely believed to be a protest against Ceferin’s attempt to reintroduce Russian youth teams to UEFA competitions last year.

The Norwegian and Icelandic FAs had voted alongside the English in an earlier vote to unbundle the amendments so they could block the term-limit clarification but back all the other measures, but when that failed they joined the others in supporting the package of reforms.

England’s lone stance was reduced to a sideshow, however, when Ceferin delivered a scene-stealing soliloquy in the post-congress media conference.

In a prepared statement, he berated the media for failing to understand that the statutes had to be amended as they had been poorly drafted in 2017 and then clarified, without the approval of congress, by the ExCo in 2020. That, he said, was illegal and meant he has always been able to stand again in 2027, if he wanted to, which begged a question he then answered.

After explaining that he was “tired” following his efforts to guide UEFA through the pandemic and oppose the European Super League, he said: “I have decided, around six months ago, that I’m not planning to run in 2027 anymore.

“The reason is that organisations need fresh blood and maybe because I was away from my family for seven years now and will be away from them for three more.”

Kristy Sparow – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

He continued by explaining that he told his family first and then a select group of “friends and colleagues”, some of whom asked him why he did not go public with his decision and put a stop to the speculation.

Ceferin said there were two reasons for keeping his thoughts to himself until now: the first was that he wanted to “see the real face of some people — and I saw it, good and bad”, and the second was he did not want to influence the vote at congress.

He then, without naming him, turned to Boban’s “pathetic cry of morality”.

“He was one of the rare people who knew that I was not planning to run in 2027,” said Ceferin.

“The moment he got the info that I was not planning to run, he went out with his narcissistic letter. He could not wait because after my disclosure his whining would not make any sense.

“Now, think, whose personal aspirations are in question and whose morality is in question?”

Ceferin concluded by saying he could look himself in the mirror, was proud to be the captain of a united ship and had a “happy life” in and outside of football.

He then took three quick questions and left to tell the member associations about his decision to stand down in 2027. He did not have time to answer a question about the English FA apparently failing his test of loyalty.

An English FA spokeswoman told reporters afterwards that it backed all of the other statute changes, which included one to increase the minimum number of women on the ExCo from one to two, but could not support the wording of article 69.3, the change related to the start of the term limits.

“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,” she said.

“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 changes 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, given our opposition to Article 69.3.”

(Kristy Sparow – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

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