European federation UEFA will elect a new president to succeed banned Michel Platini on September 14 in Athens.
A meeting of the executive committee here this morning, ahead of the Europa League Final between Liverpool and Sevilla, decided not to rush a decision.
Thus senior vice-president Angel Maria Villar, of Spain, will present the trophy to tonight’s winners as well as the European Championship prize at the Euro 2016 final in the Stade de France on July 10.
UEFA had waited on Platini’s progress through the sports courts, ascribing him the presumption of innocent until proven guilty, ever since he was originally suspended last October by the FIFA ethics committee for accepting the fatal ‘disloyal payment’ on the authorisation of the world governing body’s then president, Sepp Blatter.
His original suspension of eight years was trimmed by six by the FIFA appeal committee and then four by the Court of Arbitration of Sport. However sport’s supreme court still found Platini guilty of breaching the FIFA ethics code.
The new president will complete Platini’s term, which runs through March 2019, and become a FIFA vice president.
An early favourite to succeed the Frenchman will be Michael Van Praag, 68-year-old head of the Dutch federation, who expressed an interest during the executive committee meeting. He launched a short-lived attempt to oust Blatter in last year’s FIFA presidential election.
Van Praag, a former president of Ajax Amsterdam, has wide experience in both club and national association spheres as well as in business – all of which could be important qualities in a year in which UEFA must drive a new three-year commercial and competitions agreement with clubs, sponsors and broadcasters.
Theodore Theodoridis, UEFA’s acting general secretary, told a news conference that the September date – at which UEFA will also select its candidate for a female place on the FIFA Council – would allow candidates appropriate time to set out their case.
He said: “The date allows a proper time for candidates to present their programmes and make a campaign. We have the Euros until July 10 and then also the summer so it’s not easy to have a proper campaign, especially if we have a lot of candidates so the decision was taken to put it there to have time to go ahead with a normal electoral procedure and not an express one.”
Candidates for both elections have until July 20, 10 days after the Euro 2016 final, to formally submit their candidatures.
Theodoridis sidestepped a question on whether he might pursue the presidency, saying: “It’s important for me not to even think about anything else until July 10. We have plenty of capable members in the executive committee and national associations who can be very strong candidates.”
Apart from Van Praag these may also include Slovenia’s Aleksander Ceferin and Hungary’s Sandor Csanyi.
Theodoridis expressed a hope that predecessor Gianni Infantino would not use the influence of his present role as FIFA president as a platform from which to interfere in the election.
UEFA is still awaiting a response from the FIFA ethics committee on the precise restrictions affecting Platini vis-a-vis his ban from all football activities. Platini had been issued with an informal invitation to attend the finals by Jacques Lambert, the local organising chairman of Euro 2016.
Theodoridis said: “We sent a letter to get clarification about what the sanction entails because it is not completely clear about whether, if he can buy a ticket and be in the stand, he cannot be invited by the organiser.”
** UEFA is setting up a task force to discuss how to integrate the national teams of Gibraltar and Kosovo into the 2018 World Cup qualifiers following their admission as FIFA member associations.
The complication for Kosovo is that its statehood is not recognised by all European nations.
UEFA’s club licensing committee will rule by the end of the month on whether Kosovo’s domestic champions and cup winners meet the necessary criteria to be admitted to next season’s club competitions.