UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin hit out at his critics and “nonsense projects of so-called super leagues” as he announced he would not run for a fourth term in 2027.
Ceferin revealed he would step down at the end of his current presidency only minutes after a UEFA Congress vote had given him the chance to stand for a fourth time in 2027 – as he did not serve the full length of his first term, when he took over after Michel Platini was forced to resign in 2016.
The head of UEFA came to power eight years ago on a platform of reform, and himself introduced measures limiting senior executives to serving a maximum of three terms in their roles.
That led to criticism in recent months as speculation rose he was intending to run again, but speaking on Thursday, the 56-year-old said he had made the decision to stand down last summer due to the time he was spending away from his family.
He said he had kept the news private – and allowed the vote to proceed – as he “wanted to see the real face of some people”, in a speech where he also took aim at former UEFA chief of football Zvonimir Boban without explicitly naming him.
Boban resigned his position on January 25 in protest at what he described as ongoing plans for the current president to serve a fourth term, and in an open letter published in the Croatian press labelled them “disastrous”.
Addressing the continent’s media following the vote, Ceferin said: “I could legally run until 2031, the congress decided to vote in the change and that’s how serious organisations work.
“The statutes had to be changed or term limits would not exist at all. I am a lawyer, and articles were written about me – it was strange that I didn’t get any questions.
“Factually, it’s my decision if I want to run after 2027. Honestly speaking, I am tired of Covid, tired of two wars, nonsense projects of so-called super leagues and self-proclaimed moral authorities who are only moral until it comes to their personal interest.
“My family knew it first, and then I told just some of my friends and colleagues. I intentionally did not want to disclose my thoughts for two reasons. First, I wanted to see the real face of some people – and I saw it. I saw good and bad parts.
“And, of course, I didn’t want to influence the congress. I wanted them to decide, not knowing what I’m telling you today, because that’s an honest decision.
“Now, just two sentences about the self-proclaimed moral authority. The person you know I am speaking about, does not deserve a comment from my side. But people who know him and me will make their own opinion.
“Just one thing about his pathetic cry about morality. He was one of the people who knew I was planning not to run in 2027. The moment he had the information I would disclose this after congress, he went out with his narcissistic letter.
“He could not wait because after my disclosure, his whining would not make sense any more. Now think – whose personal aspirations are in question, and whose morality is in question?”
Analysis: Ceferin ‘sounded like a character from The Godfather’
Sky Sports News chief reporter Kaveh Solhekol:
“It’s not entirely a surprise. He had never come out and said he would definitely stand again in 2027. A lot of people were saying he was very tired, he’d been saying in interviews he was tired – so there was the possibility he might walk away in 2027.
“Ceferin has been working behind the scenes over the last few months to change the rules at UEFA so he wouldn’t have to leave in 2027, he could stay in post for an extra four years to 2031.
“He achieved that this morning, he had the rules changed. But less than an hour later, he comes out and says he’s leaving even through the rules have changed – and what’s more, he made the decision six months ago.
“If he knew he was leaving, why has he gone to the whole trouble of changing the rules? It sounded like he thinks he’s a character in The Godfather or a mafia movie.
“He turned round and said he wanted to see who his real friends are, because everyone over the last few months has been writing articles and saying things about him wanting to change the rules to stay for another four years.
“He could have just come out and said everything being written was rubbish, and that he didn’t want to stay. He’s saying he didn’t do that because he was sitting back, reading all these articles, listening to all these peoples – and seeing the people who were writing these things, talking about things in public, weren’t his friends.
“It’s very curious, but Ceferin is an emotional person. We want people to be honest and open in news conferences, and that’s what he was. He said he was fed up and tired.
“It was box office, well worth watching – we don’t normally get these kind of news conferences in the football world.”
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