Term limits, new ethics procedures highlight approved reforms from UEFA Congress
UEFA approved a series of reforms at its annual congress in Helsinki, Finland which could have a major impact on how and who runs European football's governing body.
The two-day gathering of the organisation's 55 member associations was overshadowed by a dispute however between UEFA and representatives of European football leagues over changes to the Champions League format.
Here we examine what the reforms entail and the background behind the row currently unfolding within European football.
So what exactly are these reforms?
There were seven in total: term limits for the UEFA President and members of the Executive Committee to a maximum of three four-year periods (past presidents have not had any restrictions with Lennart Johansson in power for nearly 17 years before being succeeded by Michel Platini in 2007); the appointment of two independent members to UEFA's Governance and Compliance Committee; the implementation of a new bidding process to decide how all UEFA competitions and finals are awarded; a mandate that all members of the UEFA Executive Committee now must hold an active office in their respective national associations; the introduction of more rigorous ethics and governance procedures; the allowance for more experts to chair UEFA committees; and the appointment of two representatives of the European Club Association, the umbrella body for the continent's most powerful clubs, to UEFA's Executive Committee.
What else did UEFA decide?
The composition of its Executive Committee (there were eight vacancies up for grabs) and Europe's representatives for the FIFA Council, world football's highest decision making body.
Were these reforms really necessary?
The resignation of former President Michel Platini last May over a two million Swiss Francs payment from FIFA under Sepp Blatter and the knock-on effect of the FIFA corruption scandal on the world game as a whole meant that European football's governing body had to take positive action to restore its image and overhaul how it conducts its affairs. UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin had made reform a central part of his election campaign when he was voted into office last September. It also won him the backing of FIFA President Gianni Infantino who has been encouraging all six confederations that make up world football's governing body to implement changes. Ceferin has maintained that the reforms will make UEFA a stronger, more transparent organisation and form part of his five-year strategy to transform European football.
What were the other major issues at the Congress?
Ceferin wants to make other key changes which he claims will help to make the European game more competitive and transparent as part of his wider pledge to restore football's credibility. Chief amongst these is a new, more rigorous anti-corruption unit to combat match fixing, doping and violence within the game. Also at the top of his to-do list are a number of initiatives to reduce the gap between the continent's wealthiest clubs and the others. This includes an overhaul of the transfer system with a "luxury tax" on elite clubs, squad limitations and new transfer rules to prevent them from stockpiling young talent and signing all the best players. These radical proposals, which will be firmed up over the coming months, also form part of Ceferin's drive to combat persistent criticisms from many of Europe's football leagues that UEFA is biased towards the continent's elite clubs. As former head of the Slovenian FA, he maintains that he has a good understanding of the issues Europe's leagues face, particularly the lower profile ones.
So have the reforms and Ceferin's future plans helped allay the concerns of European football leagues?
No. In fact, the dispute is getting more heated. Matters came to a head last August when UEFA announced changes to the Champions League format, which guaranteed automatic group stage qualification and more money for the top four teams from Europe's leading leagues (England, Spain, Italy and Germany). As part of the Helsinki reforms, two representatives from the European Club Association, which represents the continent's elite clubs, will sit on UEFA's Executive Committee, further reinforcing claims that the two are cosying up. The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) which represents the majority of the continent's football leagues has already voiced its opposition to the Champions League changes, which it claims will have a "detrimental impact on the competitive balance of domestic competitions." It has also announced that it will hold an extraordinary general assembly in Geneva in June to decide what action they should take, which could lead to domestic games being scheduled on Champions League nights. The EPFL is also miffed that it has not being given a seat on UEFA's Executive Committee, as the big clubs have. Ceferin told the UEFA Congress that the moves are all part of an attempt by Europe's most powerful leagues to blackmail the governing body.
Vivek Chaudhary covers FIFA and the financial side of the game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @viveksport