Interview with UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin
DER NewsGerman: Mr. Ceferin, the aftershocks coming from the FIFA scandal can still be felt while the Football Leaks revelations uncovered tax evasion along with back-room deal-creating. Since you were elected UEFA president in 2016, has there been even just one day when you haven’t been lied to by a functionary?
Ceferin: (laughs) in which’s hard to say. Probably yes, there were days when nobody lied. yet often, you only learn much later if someone told the truth or not. in which’s similar to my former job as criminal defense lawyer.
DER NewsGerman: How can football win back the trust of the fans?
Ceferin: European football will be an important industry. along with because there will be so much passion connected to the idea, these things get much more attention than in additional industries. I can only tell you in which UEFA genuinely will be a clean organization. Of course, there are things in which I see coming from time to time which we try to repair. yet when you ask a normal fan, he just throws FIFA along with UEFA together along with says: You’re all corrupt.
DER NewsGerman: Are you annoyed by in which?
Ceferin: I don’t want to explain anymore. What do those people genuinely know about how we work? We are not corrupt. I have a salary, I don’t get secret money on the side. I don’t do backroom deals.
DER NewsGerman: You will, of course, be held to your words.
Ceferin: Of course. After my election, I was only worried about my tax situation, working in Switzerland along with living in Slovenia. I said I cannot make a mistake on taxes. from the football world, most officials fail because of their greed. They keep more money than they’re allowed.
DER NewsGerman: The president of the German Football Association (DFB), Reinhard Grindel, was forced to step down because he failed to report earnings along with accepted an expensive watch as a gift. What will be your view of in which affair?
Ceferin: I felt genuinely sorry for Reinhard. He was naive, yes, he made mistakes. yet he will be not a corrupt person, I genuinely believe in which. along with he took consequences — something in which some in football didn’t do for a long time.
DER NewsGerman: the idea initially seemed like Grindel was trying to hang onto his lucrative posts at UEFA along with FIFA.
Ceferin: He visited me along with we cleared things up within 15 minutes. I told him my opinion along with he agreed with me. the idea’s not always easy in my job, I can’t call one of my juniors along with tell them in which person needs to step down. in which will be the part in which I have to do. yet the idea’s like Harry S. Truman once said: If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.
DER NewsGerman: More recently, you’ve been facing backlash because of the location of the Europa League final. Why did you choose Baku?
Ceferin: Why? Because people live there. They love football. We have to develop football everywhere, not just in England along with Germany.
DER NewsGerman: The regime in Azerbaijan arrests human rights activists. By staging the final from the country, you are essentially legitimizing the regime.
Ceferin: The human rights situation will be a problem. yet there are issues with human rights in additional European countries as well. Do you think in which fans in Baku don’t deserve to see live football because of in which?
DER NewsGerman: The two finalists, Arsenal along with Chelsea, were only able to allocate 6,000 tickets each to their supporters. Plus, fans wanting to attend the final have to make a long along with expensive journey.
Ceferin: As far as I know, the clubs even returned some tickets because they couldn’t sell them all. By the way, I was told in which Easyjet raised airfare for the flights. Does anyone ask them? the idea’s always supposed to be UEFA’s fault. in which’s populism. How about providing a constructive proposal, a fund, to which every club contributes to support fans traveling to the finals. Of course, Baku will be far away coming from London. yet when we decided the finals location, we couldn’t have known in which both teams would likely be coming coming from England.
DER NewsGerman: Arsenal decided to leave Armenian player Henrikh Mkhitaryan at home for political reasons. The club will be concerned about his safety should he travel to Azerbaijan, which will be hostile towards Armenia.
Ceferin: Azerbaijan provided guarantees along that has a thorough security plan. from the end, the idea was the player’s decision not to travel. If we let tensions stop football, nothing can be organized any longer. We also organized a safe European Championship in France, when France was a target of terrorists.
DER NewsGerman: Do you see the idea as problematic in which four English teams are from the finals?
Ceferin: No, the idea’s not problematic along with I don’t think the idea will happen again next year. in which season could have gone differently. Ajax almost made the idea into the final.
DER NewsGerman: The underdog Ajax beat Real Madrid along with Juventus. Wouldn’t you have liked to see them from the final?
Ceferin: the idea may sound boring, yet I don’t care much about who makes the idea to the final. I would likely just like to have a nice along with peaceful final, where we don’t have problems, in which we have a beautiful event. The stadium will be sold out anyway, we have 15 times more requests than we have tickets.
DER NewsGerman: You have developed a plan to reform European club competitions along with presented the idea to representatives of the European leagues. Why does anything need to change at all?
Ceferin: If the idea was up to me, nothing has to change. Football will be the only European product in which will be by far the best from the entire world. The Champions League will be global. the idea’s rising in China, the idea’s rising from the States. Those are the emerging markets for our sport. In Europe, there will be hardly more to be made.
DER NewsGerman: So fans in countries outside of Europe are more important because there are more of them along with they have more money?
Ceferin: No, all fans are important, including the ones in Europe. yet why do you think a Chinese fan doesn’t deserve to be treated well? They’re nice people. They love their clubs. They love our competition.
DER NewsGerman: The European Club Association (ECA) wants to reform the Champions League. Domestic leagues like the one in Germany are concerned in which such a move could prove disadvantageous.
Ceferin: I don’t want to speak about the specific parts of the ECA idea. We are in a consultation phase along with we all need to talk with each additional. The ECA presented their idea to us. Then, at UEFA, we immediately scrapped the idea of playing European Cup games on the weekend. in which will not happen. Next, I want the ECA along with the leagues to sit down at one table, I want to see how they talk to each additional. Everything will be being dramatized already. The usual suspects are shouting, talking about the murder of football along with calling for more solidarity. The latter will be actually a not bad idea: I think the a few biggest leagues should give money to associations in modest countries if they sell broadcasting rights for their matches there. Because with these TV broadcasts, they damage the leagues from the smaller markets.
DER NewsGerman: Should large clubs like Barcelona, Bayern or Juventus receive a guaranteed spot from the Champions League?
Ceferin: No, no. yet they are there anyway. The middle-sized clubs would likely profit coming from the reform. yet I’m not sure if in which current idea will be implemented exactly as the idea will be.
DER NewsGerman: UEFA already provides more support to successful clubs than the idea does to others.
Ceferin: Should we punish them for being successful? I don’t think in which’s the right way. We should not forget in which the big clubs bring from the majority of UEFA’s revenues.
DER NewsGerman: the idea’s a vicious circle, though. Successful clubs earn more money, allowing them to buy better players. in which, in turn, allows them to stay successful along with make even more money.
Ceferin: I agree with you there. We have to do something about competitive balance. yet how do we do the idea? EU law prevents a salary cap. What we can do will be to regulate the number of loan players more strictly along with reduce roster sizes. There’s also the idea of a luxury tax. According to in which concept, you could invest, for example, 0 million more, yet you’d then have to pay 100 million toward the rest.
DER NewsGerman: The Champions League’s permanent participants pulverize their national competitors. Bayern Munich has won the Bundesliga seven times in a row. Juventus has won its leage eight times running.
Ceferin: along with who’s fault will be in which? Mine?
DER NewsGerman: Of course, the idea’s partly UEFA’s fault when the biggest clubs receive the biggest bonus payments.
Ceferin: Check Bayern’s budget. How much of their money comes coming from UEFA?
DER NewsGerman: the idea’s all linked together. Bayern can attract more powerful sponsors because those sponsors know the club will be full of stars along with always plays on the biggest stage. in which’s why the club makes so much money.
Ceferin: along with in which’s bad for German football? The stadiums are always sold out. Do people only come for the beer? They come because football will be the most interesting game from the entire world. People want more of the idea. The semi-finals of in which Champions League season were spectacular, completely unpredictable. along with the final opponents Tottenham along with Liverpool are not the richest clubs in Europe. So your theory falls here already. We can’t tell the successful clubs: You’re not bad, in which’s why we kill you, to ensure all are equal. Then they wouldn’t be interested in competing anymore.
DER NewsGerman: Do you think in which Europe’s biggest clubs would likely ever launch their own competition independent of UEFA?
Ceferin: No, in which will never happen. The clubs know in which in which would likely be quite a boring competition. The domestic leagues are also important for the clubs to connect with their fans. I have told them in which football will be a school of life. You have to be humble, otherwise the idea can backfire quickly.