For Europe’s Soccer Chief, the Outrage Arrives in Waves

For Europe’s Soccer Chief, the Outrage Arrives in Waves


He says that he has heard the stories about how Agnelli arranged for Ceferin to take a spin in a Ferrari (Ceferin said that he has never sat in one); about the private jet trips on the Italian’s plane (they have never even flown commercial together, Ceferin said); and even the whispers about the motivation behind Agnelli’s decision to choose Ceferin to be the godfather to his six-month old daughter (Ceferin called it an “honor,” one that transcended soccer).

Still, the close relationship between the men and their families and his decision to accept Agnelli’s offer to serve as godfather at such a delicate time professionally has raised eyebrows in soccer circles, given the high stakes of the Champions League negotiations, with several officials privately raising the issue in recent weeks.

“Those rumors in football that are shared all the time are so illogical, and so stupid,” he added. “One day it is Agnelli is important, and he can influence everything because of my personal friendship with him. Next day P.S.G. is, because they are buying are rights. Then the third day we help only Real Madrid, and that’s why they were four times in the final.”

Meting out potential punishment to Manchester City is a different, and potentially more serious, problem for Ceferin and UEFA. City, a global billboard of sorts for the ruling family of Abu Dhabi, has vowed to defend itself to the bitter end in the face of a potential Champions League ban. If it succeeds in avoiding punishment, as Qatari-owned P.S.G. has done while facing similar accusations of violating financial controls, that could alter the balance of power in European soccer in an era of nation-state club owners.

Ceferin said he would not comment on the case while it is continuing, and besides, he added, it’s in the hands of an independent panel whose work he has no control over. But he rejected the suggestion that UEFA would shy away from sanctioning any club, whether it was an exceedingly wealthy one like Manchester City or a rich and well-connected one like P.S.G., whose chairman, Nasser el-Khelaifi, sits on UEFA’s executive committee at the same time he controls the organization’s broadcast partner beIN Sports.

“If you do it right, you don’t sell yourself, if you are not involved in any strange business, if you are not corrupted, then you go straight forward and be fair to anyone,” Ceferin said.



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