BUDAPEST — Facing a floor-to-ceiling window that offered sweeping views of the Danube, the river that flows through 10 European countries, Aleksander Ceferin paused for a moment to consider his words.
Ceferin, a Slovenian lawyer elected in February to a second term as the leader of UEFA, European soccer’s governing body, has become accustomed to carefully tempering his comments, to steering clear of trouble in whatever he chooses to say publicly, but this month he knows his every word will be parsed even more than usual.
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In the past week alone, UEFA has found itself fighting fires on three fronts. First, there was criticism of a behind-the-scenes effort to reshape the Champions League, club soccer’s most important competition and UEFA’s financial engine, by effectively excluding most of Europe from the tournament. Then came anger from England over the choice of Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, as the host of next week’s Europa League final. But the loudest fury arrived on Monday, when the newly crowned English champion Manchester City learned, through a report by The New York Times, that it could be facing a Champions League ban related to an investigation into its finances.
Each problem sat squarely on the desk of Ceferin last week in his temporary office, a converted suite in a luxury hotel in Budapest. And each will test his ability to balance the competing interests of rich clubs and small leagues, to defend his integrity amid serious accusations from powerful interests, and to navigate a difficult moment for European soccer in which some are questioning UEFA’s ability — and even its willingness — to enforce its rules.
“Sometimes,” Ceferin said, “we forget how dirty this industry is.”
Ceferin, 51, is still relatively new to this world. The former president of Slovenia’s soccer federation, he emerged from obscurity to become one of the most powerful men in sports after a scandal removed his predecessor, Michel Platini, from office in 2015. Now three years into the job, Ceferin is facing perhaps the most crucial period of his tenure, and he knows the decisions he and UEFA soon will take could define the future of the European game for a generation or more.
The Champions League is perhaps the most significant issue, since the plan put forward earlier this month — proposed and favored by a group of the biggest clubs from the richest leagues — could upend an already-frayed ecosystem in which resource-poor clubs risk being pushed further to the margins, and all but excluded from the continent’s elite tournaments.
The plans leaked after a meeting Ceferin and his executive committee held with a group representing Europe’s domestic leagues. The leagues denounced the plan, with the most vocal of their leaders, Javier Tebas of the Spain’s La Liga, darkly suggesting that UEFA had no interest in listening to stakeholders beyond a small cartel of top clubs.
Tebas’s reaction, according to Ceferin, was designed to stoke public anger. If so, it worked. Fans and commentators almost immediately took to social media to reject the proposal. Ceferin likened some of the loudest voices to a new breed of politicians who stoke anger to fuel their movements.
“Look,” he said, “one way of operating is shouting, ‘The rich will take everything!’ And this is typical of the populist shouting in European politics.”
“He’s loud,” Ceferin added of Tebas. “I think it’s part of his tactics to operate like that. But I don’t think it’s very productive.”
Neither Tebas nor anyone else, he noted, had proposed an alternative. And anyway, Ceferin insisted, nothing has been decided yet — except for the fact that matches in European competitions will not be played on the weekends, a guarantee that was announced Friday. The bigger clubs had sought those windows to maximize the attractiveness and value of Champions League games to broadcasters, even if it threatened to severely damage the marketability, and perhaps even the viability, of domestic leagues.
Ceferin was elected on a platform that championed support for Europe’s small- and medium-sized soccer nations, regions that have seen the power of their clubs eroded by the ubiquitous popularity of a handful of top teams and leagues whose televised matches are often more popular than the in-person domestic alternative. That influence is the real imbalance, Ceferin said.
While UEFA, which pays 0 million each year to Europe’s national leagues in so-called solidarity payments, the continent’s behemoths — the Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga — pay nothing to their continental counterparts. Ceferin suggested that must change.
“Solidarity means not only solidarity from the UEFA’s side, but also the Big Five leagues who sell rights to the small countries and affect directly the revenues of the local leagues,” he said.
With so much at stake, and opponents circling, Ceferin’s personal conduct — particularly his close friendship with the Juventus president Andrea Agnelli, who helped draw up the Champions League restructuring plan — has come under scrutiny.
He says that he has heard the stories about how Agnelli arranged for Ceferin to take a spin in a Ferrari (Ceferin said that he has never sat in one); about the private jet trips on the Italian’s plane (they have never even flown commercial together, Ceferin said); and even the whispers about the motivation behind Agnelli’s decision to choose Ceferin to be the godfather to his six-month old daughter (Ceferin called it an “honor,” one that transcended soccer).
Still, the close relationship between the men and their families and his decision to accept Agnelli’s offer to serve as godfather at such a delicate time professionally has raised eyebrows in soccer circles, given the high stakes of the Champions League negotiations, with several officials privately raising the issue in recent weeks.
“Those rumors in football that are shared all the time are so illogical, and so stupid,” he added. “One day it is Agnelli is important, and he can influence everything because of my personal friendship with him. Next day P.S.G. is, because they are buying our rights. Then the third day we help only Real Madrid, and that’s why they were four times in the final.”
Meting out potential punishment to Manchester City is a different, and potentially more serious, problem for Ceferin and UEFA. City, a global billboard of sorts for the ruling family of Abu Dhabi, has vowed to defend itself to the bitter end in the face of a potential Champions League ban. If it succeeds in avoiding punishment, as Qatari-owned P.S.G. has done while facing similar accusations of violating financial controls, that could alter the balance of power in European soccer in an era of nation-state club owners.
Ceferin said he would not comment on the case while it is continuing, and besides, he added, it’s in the hands of an independent panel whose work he has no control over. But he rejected the suggestion that UEFA would shy away from sanctioning any club, whether it was an exceedingly wealthy one like Manchester City or a rich and well-connected one like P.S.G., whose chairman, Nasser el-Khelaifi, sits on UEFA’s executive committee at the same time he controls the organization’s broadcast partner beIN Sports.
“If you do it right, you don’t sell yourself, if you are not involved in any strange business, if you are not corrupted, then you go straight forward and be fair to anyone,” Ceferin said.B:
【巍】【峨】【雄】【浑】【的】【长】【安】【城】【在】【夕】【阳】【的】【照】【耀】【下】，【显】【得】【更】【加】【威】【严】【壮】【丽】。【城】【中】【的】【大】【道】【上】【人】【来】【人】【往】，【形】【形】**【的】【人】【在】【纵】【横】【交】【错】【的】【街】【巷】【中】【来】【回】【的】【穿】【梭】，【各】【种】【吆】【喝】【声】【此】【起】【彼】【伏】，【将】【要】【西】【落】【的】【太】【阳】【并】【不】【能】【阻】【止】【人】【们】【的】【热】【情】。 “【哇】！【这】【就】【是】【长】【安】【城】【呀】！【好】【热】【闹】【呀】！【比】【整】【个】【比】【丘】【国】【的】【国】【都】【还】【要】【大】【十】【倍】！”【一】【道】【惊】【呼】【声】【从】【人】【群】【中】【传】【了】【过】【来】。 “【切】
“【什】【么】【提】【议】？”【李】【峰】【问】【道】。 “【我】【提】【议】【将】【书】【院】【搬】【迁】。”【东】【方】【越】【秀】【说】【道】：“【在】【玄】【青】【大】【陆】【限】【制】【了】【书】【院】【的】【发】【展】，【为】【了】【书】【院】【的】【未】【来】，【也】【为】【了】【李】【家】【以】【后】【的】【繁】【荣】【昌】【盛】，【书】【院】【不】【能】【在】【玄】【青】【大】【陆】。” “【书】【院】【搬】【迁】？”【李】【峰】【愣】【了】【愣】。 【东】【方】【越】【秀】【的】【话】【是】【他】【没】【有】【想】【过】【的】。 【在】【李】【峰】【的】【心】【中】，【下】【意】【识】【的】【认】【为】【玄】【青】【大】【陆】【是】【最】【安】【全】【的】。 今期清高跑狗玄机图58**【发】【的】【手】【段】【他】【还】【是】【知】【道】【的】，【这】【么】【多】【年】，‘【地】【上】【皇】’【能】【毫】【发】【无】【损】【的】【在】S【市】【经】【营】【着】，【就】【能】【证】【明】【其】【背】【后】【的】【势】【力】【有】【多】【强】【大】。 【况】【且】，【听】【说】【他】【的】【上】【头】【还】【有】【一】【位】【大】【人】【物】，【也】【就】【是】【这】【个】【大】【人】【物】【这】【么】【多】【年】【一】【直】【关】【照】【着】‘【地】【上】【皇】’。 【而】【且】【据】【说】，【这】【个】【大】【人】【物】【不】【久】【之】【前】【就】【在】S【市】【现】【身】【了】。 【所】【以】，【他】【只】【能】【咽】【下】【这】【个】【哑】【巴】【亏】。 【顾】【清】
【不】【远】【处】，【一】【个】【落】【寞】【的】7【号】【背】【对】【着】【董】【芳】【卓】，【却】【仰】【着】【头】【看】【着】【天】【空】。【自】【始】【自】【终】，【他】【都】【没】【有】【低】【下】【头】【来】。 【葡】【萄】【牙】7【号】【很】【久】【没】【有】【哭】【泣】【过】，【也】【很】【久】【没】【有】【低】【过】【头】。 【此】【时】，【也】【许】【他】【是】【最】【坚】【强】【的】【葡】【萄】【牙】【人】【了】，【倔】【强】，【坚】【强】。【因】【为】【连】【葡】【萄】【牙】【总】【统】【都】【哭】【了】。 【他】【依】【旧】【如】【雕】【塑】【一】【般】【矗】【立】【在】【那】【里】，【哪】【怕】【有】【眼】【泪】【想】【出】【来】，【都】【会】【立】【即】【凝】【结】。 【董】
【萧】【燕】【儿】【还】【好】，【她】【大】【概】【猜】【到】【了】【一】【点】，【脸】【色】【难】【看】【道】：“【陈】【先】【生】，【难】【道】【昨】【天】【晚】【上】，【你】【真】【的】【杀】【了】【北】【冥】【守】【的】【弟】【子】？” “【什】【么】？” 【江】【琉】【璃】【嘴】【巴】【大】【张】，【她】【昨】【晚】【睡】【的】【跟】【死】【猪】【一】【样】，【根】【本】【就】【不】【知】【道】【别】【墅】【旁】【边】【发】【生】【了】【战】【斗】。 【江】【琉】【璃】【惊】【呼】【道】：“【陈】【宁】【你】【太】【不】【够】【以】【前】【了】，【昨】【天】【晚】【上】【出】【去】【打】【架】【竟】【然】【不】【叫】【我】【去】【看】。” 【萧】【燕】【儿】【气】【道】：“【琉】