UEFA’s New President, Aleksander Ceferin, Craves Plenty of Change in His Staid Sport

http://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/20/sports/soccer/uefa-aleksander-ceferi
BYRORY SMITH
MARCH 20, 2017
Photo Aleksander Ceferin of Slovenia, the new president of UEFA, plans moves that might fundamentally alter the landscape of European soccer. Credit Jure Makovec/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

NYON, Switzerland — When Aleksander Ceferin talks about changes, he means the grand, sweeping variety. He means the sort that might begin to repair the “stained” reputation of football’s governing bodies: things like term limits and transparency, the policies that helped elect him president of UEFA by a landslide in September.

He means the kind designed to stop the seemingly inexorable drift of power into the hands of Europe’s elite clubs, the kind that might puncture the lingering threat of a Continentwide superleague: things like setting a “red line” on further alterations to the current format of the Champions League, or demanding that broadcast rights deals on European competitions run for six years rather than three.

He means, too, things that might fundamentally alter the landscape of European soccer, like discussing several proposals for cross-border leagues that are currently under consideration.

In a conference room at UEFA’s headquarters here recently, Ceferin talked with quiet conviction about those changes and more. It was his status, he said, as a “candidate of change” that allowed him to win the presidency.

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More than being unafraid of change, though, he said he was compelled toward it. It is his “responsibility,” he said. No more boiler-room politics, no more clandestine deals, no more murky patronage. He is an unknown quantity, and that brings with it a blank slate.

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