UEFA’s president, Alexander Ceferin, made an intriguing analogy about the consequences of creating the Europa League, a project that failed three days after it was announced. The official said the 10-day war in Slovenia 30 years ago helped him prepare to take action against the competition that nearly divided European football last week.
Ceferin said of the controversial tournament, set up by 12 of the biggest clubs in Europe, which soon suffered as teams scrambled in the face of pressure from football fans, politicians and personalities and quickly collapsed. It was like a war. I can’t compare, but the two situations were stressful. Tension was the same.
Ceferin’s direct mission was to curb 12 of the richest clubs in the world, which threatened to split up to create a competition that was against the rules of European football. “Spoiled kids can’t destabilize me,” he said.
For the Slovenian leader, it was especially difficult to grasp the disappointment that could have caused Juventus. She had a close relationship with Andrea Agnelli, president of Turin club, and his daughter is the daughter of the UEFA leader.
As president of the European Club Association, Agnelli and the rest of the clubs agreed two weeks ago to change the shape of the Champions League from the 2024/2025 season onwards, as a way of abandoning the threats of the Premier League.
But shortly thereafter, Ceferin had new concerns that Agnelli would break his commitment to remain in the UEFA competition. The Slovenian was on his way to Switzerland and had begun calling the Juventus president. There was no answer and the UEFA leader’s worst fears began to take shape.
“The worst day was Saturday, because I realized then that it was pure betrayal, and that some people had lied to us for years,” Ceferin said. “It was really strange, because I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen the next day.”
The Superliga plan, which was originally leaked in January, was in progress, and was activated by 12 clubs: Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United, Tottenham, Liverpool, Chelsea, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan. “I got calls from three or four clubs saying, ‘We’re sorry, but we have to say otherwise we’re out,'” Ceferin said.
The leagues in England, Spain and Italy held emergency meetings. Suddenly, their main competitions are in danger of being affected, as the link that allowed them to secure seats in European Championships could be severed.
The Football Association Board of Directors has approached the government of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to seek help in keeping the country’s most popular sports league intact.
In response, a joint statement was issued by UEFA, leagues and federations from England, Spain and Italy. They warned against rejecting the “satirical project” by legal means. All clubs that have joined the separatist initiative will be excluded from the current competitions.
Consequently, the larger group, consisting of six English clubs, will be expelled from the Premier League, and its players cannot be part of their teams. But the group of founding clubs in Superliga, dubbed “dirty Dozen” by Ceferin, continued their initiative until Sunday evening, opening a website that did not provide much detail about the competition (especially the women’s championship) and presented a clear improvised slogan.
Ceferin was furious. He continued his plans to report the renewal of the Champions League and launched it against “snakes” from rebel clubs, and particularly criticized Manchester United Vice President Ed Woodward and “liar” Annelie, who he said had been betrayed.
UEFA wasted no time in taking steps to eliminate the premier league idea before opening the possibility of legal challenges that would lead to lengthy legal proceedings. Ceferin received assistance from Boris Johnson, who threatened to enact rules to prevent the new tournament.
He has also received signs of support for the Champions League from players in the Premier League itself. In England, fan protests grew and the Slovenes discovered some cracks in the project alliance. With the opportunity to speak at the 55-nation UEFA Conference in Montreux, Switzerland, on Tuesday, Ceferin made a direct appeal to the owners of the Premier League.
“Gentlemen, I made a big mistake,” he stressed. “Some will say it was greed, others it was contempt, arrogance, complacency or complete ignorance of England’s football culture. It doesn’t matter. What matters is there is still time to change your mind. We’ve all made mistakes.” He said.
Now, Ceferin wants Real Madrid and Barcelona, and especially Juventus, the only three clubs that have yet to confirm their exit from the first division, openly accept defeat and abandon any future attempts to move forward with the separatist idea.
“I think she is dead,” he said. “You and I will not be playing sports or football anymore if that happens again.” Ceferin denied having a desire for revenge. However, he acknowledged that doubts would prevail over some clubs and their reasons for taking action.
He said, “I still think I will trust people, because those with whom I was safe did not betray me, except for Agnelli.” “Among the others, I was suspicious the whole time, everyone,” he added. So how do we fix the relationship with the Juventus president? “There is no longer a relationship. There will never be again,” the UEFA leader said.
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