Aleksander Ceferin in tirade at critics after shock decision to stand down as Uefa president

Aleksander Ceferin
Aleksander Ceferin will step down as Uefa president in 2027 - Kristy Sparow/Getty Images

Aleksander Ceferin blindsided the rest of European football by announcing he is standing down as Uefa president in 2027 just minutes after securing approval to seek to extend his term until 2031.

The Football Association was among governing bodies left in the dark over his plans, having been the only dissenting voice in voting against Ceferin’s controversial rule changes in Paris.

In an address to media at the 48th Ordinary Uefa Congress immediately afterwards, Ceferin launched a tirade at his perceived critics, saying he wanted to see the surprise on their faces as he said he would not be running for a fourth term.

“I decided around six months ago that I am not planning to run in 2027,” he said. Ceferin had said earlier that he was “tired” after Covid and of “self-proclaimed moral authorities”. Citing his reasons to stand down, he said he had been away from his family for seven years and it was time for new blood.

“What makes me happy and proud is that I am captain of the ship that has navigated stormy weather,” he added.

Just half an hour earlier at the congress in Paris, Mark Bullingham, the FA’s chief executive, had been the only administrator to hold up a red card to changes in rules.

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham holds aloft a red card
FA chief executive Mark Bullingham (centre) was the only one to hold aloft a red card - Jamie Gardner/PA

The timing of Ceferin’s announcement is curious, given his long-term ally, ex-Croatia and AC Milan superstar Zvonimir Boban, resigned from his role as Uefa’s technical director last month in protest at the proposed term limit extension.

The controversial allowance for Ceferin to have run for a further full term from 2027 to 2031 was included in a bundle of rule changes. The FA voted with Iceland and Norway for the statute amendments to be unbundled. The FA wholeheartedly supported most of the other changes proposed – such as increasing the minimum number of female representatives on the ruling Uefa executive committee from one to two.

However, when it came to a direct vote on the amendments, only the FA held up a red card.

An FA spokeswoman said: “We were supportive of the statute changes proposed by Uefa, with the exception of one –  the proposed new wording on term limits for Article 69.3.

“On Article 69.3, we believe that it was always intended that a principle of three terms of four years should be a maximum period for any Uefa Exco member to serve. We have recently implemented governance changes of our own and think it’s important that we are consistent in our approach.

“We requested and voted for the statute changes to be tabled separately, but this was not supported by a sufficient majority and we respect that. We support all the other statute changes tabled at Congress but, because they were tabled in a single bundle, we have voted against all of them, given our opposition to Article 69.3.”

Boban had previously described the term limit proposal as “disastrous” in an open resignation letter published last month. “If I were to accept such a difficult and wrong decision and turn my head, I would be going against the principles and general values in which I deeply believe,” the former Croatia and AC Milan playmaker said.

Ceferin was re-elected unopposed for a four-year term at last year’s Uefa Congress in Lisbon.

‘I’m tired of self-proclaimed moral authorities’

Ceferin claimed Boban knew he was going to stand down in 2027. “Honestly speaking, I’m tired of Covid, I’m tired of two wars [and] nonsense projects of so-called Super League,” the Slovenian lawyer said in a press conference rebuke against his perceived critics. “I’m also tired of self-proclaimed moral authorities who are moral just until it comes to their personal interests.”

In a thinly-veiled attack on his former lieutenant Boban, Ceferin said: “Now just two sentences about the self-proclaimed moral authority. The person you know when am I speaking about does not deserve a comment from my side but people who know him and we will make their own opinions. Just one sentence about his pathetic cry about morality. He was one of the rare persons that knew that I was not going to run in 2027. The moment that he got the info that I would disclose it after Congress he went out with his narcissistic letter.

“He could not wait because after my disclosure his whining would not make sense any more. Now think, whose personal aspirations are in question? And think, whose morality is in question?

“So to conclude, I’m very happy that I could finally explain my point of view in the future. It will be good that I could do it earlier.

“If you need any legal advice about me, Uefa, I would appreciate you would contact me before or at least after listening to people who are not lawyers and would do anything to achieve their personal aspirations.”

Sources close to Boban say he will not be commenting.

Ceferin added that he had “met many great people in football and I will meet more”.

“Be sure that [the] majority of people in football are not like some clowns,” he added. “Majority are great people that love our beautiful game. So, I have decided – let’s say around six months ago – that I’m not planning to run in 2027 any more. The reason is that after some time every organisation [needs] fresh blood but mainly because I was away from my family for seven years now, and I will be away from them for three more ‘til 2027. My family knew it first.”

He added: “I intentionally didn’t want to disclose my thoughts before because of two reasons: first, I wanted to see the real face of some people and I saw it; I saw good and bad parts. And of course I didn’t want to influence the congress. I wanted them to decide not knowing what I’m telling you today because that’s an honest decision. I have to say that it was actually amusing to watch all this hysteria around and at the same time getting all the messages of support from my federations.”