(Reuters) - UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin told Europe’s top football clubs on Wednesday that “money does not rule” and warned its biggest leagues that he would not give in to blackmail as he promised to reshape the game in the region.
The Slovenian also reiterated in his opening speech at the UEFA Congress that he would not allow the creation of a closed “Super League”, which some of the region’s biggest clubs have discussed.
Ceferin was elected last September, shortly after UEFA announced changes to the flagship Champions League competition to give more slots to clubs from bigger leagues and cut the number allocated to smaller ones.
The changes were implemented after the biggest clubs had discussed forming a breakaway Super League.
European football faces a huge disparity between the top leagues such as England’s Premier League and Germany’s Bundesliga and the smallest ones, which struggle with poor revenues, falling attendances and financial difficulties.
Ceferin promised to distribute 1 million euros to each of UEFA’s 55 member associations as a “solidarity payment” following strong financial results from national team competitions such as UEFA EURO 2016.
“UEFA is not here to accumulate wealth while (football associations) struggle to develop football in the furthest reaches of (their) territories.”
He said UEFA would sit down with the clubs, leagues and players to develop a “strategic vision” for European football over the next five years.
“This five-year plan will not be forced on you, it will not come out of the blue, as may have happened in the past,” he told the UEFA Congress.
“It will not be drafted by some anonymous bureaucrat and his paper-pushers hidden away on the shores of Lake Geneva.”
The Switzerland-based UEFA should not be afraid of stakeholders, Ceferin said, and issued stark warnings to clubs and leagues alike.
“To some clubs I should say...there will be no closed league. It’s as simple as that. That is not in line with our values and ideas,” he said.
“We will never give in to the blackmail of those who think they can manipulate small leagues...because they think they are all powerful because of the astronomical values they generate.”
“We will work together to rectify the imbalances as much as possible - problems and imbalances for which you are also responsibly,” he added. “Sharing must not be considered a dirty word.”
The Congress later approved measures restricting the president and executive committee members to a maximum of three four-year terms each.
It also decided that venues for the Champions League and Europa League finals would be selected through what Ceferin described as a “fully objective manner through a transparent bidding procedure”.
Ceferin added: “Surprising at it may seem, it was not always the case in the past.”
Six new members were voted onto UEFA’s executive committee, including former Poland forward Zbigniew Boniek and Football Association of Ireland chief John Delaney.
Delaney was elected one day after members of Ireland’s women’s soccer team threatened to boycott their next international match over what they described as “humiliating” working conditions.
Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty and Hugh Lawson