The two men often clash and know no sympathy for each other, but their leadership destinies bring them together. Like Gianni Infantino last month, Aleksander Ceferin will be re-elected this week for a new term as UEFA president without a moment’s hesitation.
In Kigali in early March, the shaven-headed Italian-Swiss extended his reign as FIFA president without even having to count the ballots. He was the only candidate. In Lisbon, over the next two days, the Slovenian is also assured of victory even before the ballot opens. He does not have a single rival.
Aleksander Ceferin, 55, will be re-elected on Wednesday at the UEFA Congress for a third consecutive four-year term. Arrived at the head of the body in 2016, after the forced withdrawal of Michel Platini, a much more charismatic leader, the former lawyer has remitted a first time in 2019.
His first election had forced him to battle against a rival, the Dutchman Michel van Praag. He won with a comfortable majority (42 votes against 13). The second, three years later, was uncontested. The third, this week, promises to be at least as comfortable.
His second term was dominated by an often frontal confrontation with Gianni Infantino, crystallized for many months on the FIFA project, now abandoned, of a World Cup every two years. The Slovenian’s next four-year lease at the head of UEFA promises, on paper, to be much less confrontational. Aleksander Ceferin will be able to continue the reform of the financial fair play, and above all to implement the new format of the Champions League, with 36 teams from the 2024/2025 season and a first phase organized as a mini-championship.
In the absence of a suspenseful election, UEFA will focus this week in Lisbon on a subject with a more uncertain outcome: the awarding of the Women’s Euro in 2025. Unlike FIFA, the choice of host is not made by the national federations’ delegates, but by the members of the executive committee.
The popular and media success of the last edition of the continental tournament, held last year in England (nearly 575,000 spectators for the entire tournament, an average of more than 18,500 people per match), partly explains the number of applications. Four applications were submitted in time: a quartet of Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden), France, Poland and Switzerland.
Unless the situation changes, the victory should go to the four Nordic countries. Their project is announced as the favorite. It looks solid in all aspects, except for the logistics. A Euro in four countries, UEFA has never known one before for women’s soccer. The Scandinavians assure that the connections will be fast and easy, mainly by train, between the stadiums of the four nations. Credible.
First outsider: Switzerland. Its file promises a tight tournament, with the assurance of a very presentable carbon impact. A great country of sports governance, but not yet of events, Switzerland has never organized the Women’s Euro, unlike the Scandinavian countries. It can create a surprise.
The other two candidates? The choice of Poland would be risky on the geopolitical level, it is said, by its proximity with Ukraine and Belarus. France, host of the Women’s World Cup in 2019, would have been a more than serious candidate until last spring. But the fiasco of the Champions League final in May 2022 at the Stade de France, then the crisis of governance at the French Football Federation, where the president Noël Le Graët was pushed towards the exit, made his popularity rating at UEFA fall heavily.
Finally, the last issue on the table of the Executive Committee members, this Tuesday, April 4 in Lisbon: Belarus. Unlike Russia, it has not been suspended from European competitions, despite its active support for the Russian military invasion of Ukraine. A form of exception, even inconsistency, in an international sports movement where the two belligerent countries have always been associated on the sanctions table.
The executive committee should, logically, put things in order by suspending Belarus.