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Ceferin set to guide UEFA through key period for European football

REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

European soccer boss Aleksander Ceferin is set to be re-elected unopposed at a UEFA Congress in Rome on Thursday, putting him in charge for four years which could see fundamental changes to club football on the continent.

The Slovenian lawyer will face a delicate balancing act as he attempts to find a middle ground between Europe’s big clubs and the rest, who fear being left behind by their richer peers.

UEFA is already looking ahead to the cycle beginning in 2024, and the European Club Association (ECA) has said it wants a model that will increase the number of clubs participating and guarantee more matches for all.

ECA chairman Andrea Agnelli, the president of Italian champions Juventus, and Ceferin have agreed to work together, although they have not given any more details on their plans.

Agnelli suggested in an interview with Britain’s Guardian newspaper last year that the 32-team group stage in UEFA’s Champions League could be arranged into four groups of eight rather than eight groups of four.

UEFA currently enjoys a near-monopoly on competitions involving top European clubs, but that position is also under threat: FIFA president Gianni Infantino wants to introduce a four-yearly 24-team Club World Cup and says his plans are backed by an investment consortium willing to put in $25 billion over 12 years in return for 49 percent ownership of such a competition.

Ceferin was elected in September 2016 to replace Michel Platini after the former France midfielder was banned by FIFA for ethics violations. Platini has denied any wrongdoing.

Since then, Ceferin has argued that closing the financial gap between a handful of top clubs and the rest — the so-called “competitive balance” — is the biggest challenge facing European football.

REUTERS/Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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