FA chairman Greg Clarke has spoken of his desire to get new UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin onside quickly, amid fears England’s Champions League allocation could be reduced to three sides.
The almost unknown Slovenian thrashed Dutch veteran Michael van Praag, the FA’s choice, 42-13 in a vote of UEFA’s 55 member associations at an extraordinary congress in Athens on Wednesday.
Clarke, who has only been in his job for 10 days himself, said he met the 48-year-old Ceferin for the first time at a dinner on the eve of the vote.
“He got up and said: ‘I’m young, I’m a new broom, I want to do things differently, I’ve got ideas.'” said Clarke.
“People often see these decisions as between good and bad but sometimes you’ve got to choose between two good candidates.
“And the most important thing for me is the president we’ve got achieved something important: a clear, strong majority.
“Leaders need that and he has a hell of a mandate. We need to get behind that and help him deliver that change agenda.”
Ceferin told reporters after his landslide win that his first mission will be to “shake hands and introduce himself” to staff at UEFA’s Nyon headquarters but things will get harder after that.
The father-of-three, who spoke fluent English throughout, has not provided too many policy details so far but did say he wants to bring in term limits, revamp the executive committee and set up a compliance committee.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE REACTION
But it is the burgeoning class war over access to UEFA’s club competitions that will dominate his first few months in the job, with clubs and leagues threatening to revolt over a set of reforms for 2018-21 that were announced last month.
That settlement saw the number of guaranteed Champions League group-stage places for Europe’s strongest leagues – the Bundesliga, La Liga, Premier League and Serie A – go from 11 to 16, half of the total, with radical changes also proposed for how the money is allocated. The foremost of those is another that will favour the traditional superpowers, as it gives credit for past performances.
Ceferin said he is unhappy about how this deal was reached, and sitting down to look at it again will be his first priority.
And he must also remember he only has his mandate for two and a half years, as he is completing the term started by his banned predecessor Michel Platini, who was controversially allowed to make a farewell speech to the organisation he ran for eight years from 2007.
Platini used most of his allotted 10 minutes to praise football and UEFA but he started by repeating he is innocent of any wrongdoing.
“I hold no grievance against anybody who didn’t support me – everybody is entitled to their own belief,” the 61-year-old former France and Juventus star said.
“But that is not important, what is important is football.”