New UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin labelled claims that his bid for candidacy was officially supported by FIFA chief Gianni Infantino as “media imagination” and a “lie”.
Ceferin, the head of the Slovenian Football Association, was initially considered an outsider to replace disgraced former president Michel Platini but quickly emerged as favourite.
The 48-year-old defeated Michael van Praag convincingly in Wednesday’s ballot, earning 42 votes to the Dutchman’s 13 from the 55 UEFA members.
A report from Norwegian website Josimar before the vote, which took place at a UEFA Congress in Athens, claimed FIFA president Infantino – former general secretary of Europe’s governing body – was supporting Ceferin’s bid, contrary to FIFA rules.
It also alleged that Ceferin had gained support from Scandinavian associations by promising to let them host the European Championship in either 2024 or 2028.
Van Praag responded to the publication on Twitter earlier this month by writing: “If it is true, then we are back to the old-school way of doing business in the football world. That is exactly what I want to change. We need an honest football leader. No power hungry politician. Someone you can trust with football.”
But Ceferin dismissed reports he received official support from Infantino, telling a news conference: “I have known Gianni Infantino since I became president of the Slovenian Football Association in 2011.
“He was a good general secretary of UEFA, everything else concerning the elections that were happening today was media imagination and some other people’s imagination.
“If you want to ask me did he support me, I hope so but I don’t know anything about it. If a guy who was general secretary thought I was best for the position then it’s probably because he knows the organisation.
“But all things about official support are a simple lie.”
Ceferin also stated his belief that the overwhelming support he gained from across Europe was born from a desire for change.
“For a new face to come and lead UEFA obviously it was the right time,” he added. “People wanted new faces and new changes and you’ve seen what happened today.
“The big associations, midsize and small ones were actually asking the same thing. It might sound naive, but I think they believe in me and my programme and also want to have some changes.
“I cannot tell you more than they obviously trust me. It’s very important to me, an honour for me. Why do they trust me? You should ask the 42 voters who voted for me.”
Asked about what he could do to improve transparency, Ceferin replied: “Many things can be done.
“One is a term limit for the president and ExCo members. I am [also] sure we have to establish a compliance committee.
“There are many [problems] unfortunately. Match-fixing is a problem, racism is a problem, security and safety in these times is a terrible problem.”
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