Aleksander Ceferin kept the Football Association in the dark about his intention not to stand for another term as UEFA president in 2027 prior to announcing it to the media on Thursday.
The Slovenian said he had known for six months that he would not run again, but had delayed going public because he wanted to see the “real face” of some of those close to him.
He said it had been “amusing” to watch “hysteria” build around the prospect of him staying on until 2031, and made his announcement at a press conference after UEFA Congress rather than confirming it in his Congress speech to member associations.
English FA chief exec shows the sole red card to UEFA statute changes which will give Aleksander Ceferin the opportunity to serve a further term as president from 2027. pic.twitter.com/3WfeH44GPP
— Jamie Gardner (@PAJamieGardner) February 8, 2024
He said he had shared his decision with his family and “some of his friends and colleagues” but it is understood this was not news he had divulged to the English FA, which just over an hour earlier had voted at UEFA Congress in Paris against a rule change that made a fourth term a possibility.
In a seven-minute monologue Ceferin launched an extraordinary attack on former ally Zvonimir Boban, who resigned as UEFA technical director last month over the proposed statute change.
“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,” Ceferin said.
“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.”
FA sources said even if it had been told about Ceferin’s intentions it would have made no difference to how it voted at Congress, because its vote was on the principle around term limits rather than being about an individual.
Chief executive Mark Bullingham was the only federation leader to hold up a red card against the amendments to the UEFA statutes, having also been one of only three national associations who sought to unbundle the amendments, because it supported the vast majority of them.
Ceferin left the press conference after three questions, leaving his general secretary Theodore Theodoridis to field a follow-up on whether his actions had embarrassed the FA.
“I don’t think so, we have a democracy,” he said.
UEFA treasurer and FA vice-president of international relations David Gill had raised objections to the term limits proposal at an executive committee meeting in Hamburg in December without being given any assurance from Ceferin that he would not exploit the rule change to stand again, while Boban quit last month having claimed he expressed his concerns to Ceferin about the “disastrous” proposal.
Ceferin claimed Boban knew of his intention to stand down but had spoken out anyway because of his own “personal aspirations”.
“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,” Ceferin said.
“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?”
Boban chose not to respond to a request for comment.