UEFA President: Croatian National Team and Clubs Could Face Drastic Sanctions

Daniela Rogulj

The new president of the European Football Federation (UEFA) Aleksander Čeferin visited Zagreb yesterday to meet with the Croatian Football Federation (HNS), Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, and Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, reports Dalmacija News on 20 December 2016.

“Croatia is not only known for their phenomenal football players, but also for the many problems that need to be solved. All covenants have their problems and in Croatia I see two problems. One problem is the fans that can lead to a drastic sanction for both the national team and clubs. Another problem is the very poor infrastructure, one of the worst, if we compare with similar countries,” said the UEFA President at the beginning of his speech at a press conference held in Zagreb on Tuesday.  After a delegation with the Croatian Football Federation (HNS), Čeferin visited the Prime Minister Andrej Plenković before being received by Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović.


“With the Prime Minister, we discussed the infrastructure and the fans. UEFA will always help in improving infrastructure, and HNS primarily should help local and state authorities. Where the fans are concerned, we cannot sanction them. There, HNS and the state must do their work. I warned the prime minister and Davor (Šuker) that the Croatian national team and clubs can be threatened with the harshest sanctions,” said Čeferin about his talks with the Croatian Prime Minister.


The President of the Croatian Football Federation, Davor Šuker added: “We thanked the Prime Minister for the reception and stressed the hope that we will reach an equitable law on hooligans to a fair law on the allocation of funds from betting, and that we will be able to build a normal stadium. And the President of UEFA has rejected any involvement of the European umbrella organization of football with the alleged launch of the regional league in the countries of the former Yugoslavia.”


In regards to the “Regional League”, Čeferin adds: “A local official presented his idea and there was a great story. UEFA is not involved in any arrangements for starting the league and say they have not prepared any financial resources. We have more ideas about such, and interstate leagues in the future do not exclude the possibility of being organized, but that does not mean that they will involve only the states from the former Yugoslavia. Nothing has thus far happened other than thinking about it,” said the 49-year-old Slovene, his answer fully agreed with by the Croatian Football Federation President, Šuker.


In answer to the question on whether HNS officials, against whom allegations have been raised, should resign on account of moral reasons:


“As president of UEFA, I cannot comment on the judicial proceedings in progress. The presumption of innocence is for me the important thing. When the process is complete and the final verdict is made, then I’ll take a stand.”


Čeferin dismissed the possibility that UEFA in any way has interfered with the internal problems of HNS, as well as polling for corruption and problems with the judicial organization.


“For UEFA it is important that the elections are democratic and that all are elected by democratic means. I do not know in what sense the Government is interfering in the work of the Union or if HNS does not respect the laws. If someone does not respect the law, then the state must react,” said Čeferin who recently had to defend himself against charges that he allowed “elitization” in the Champions League, which will ultimately lead to an even greater gap between the most powerful clubs and those poorer clubs coming from smaller countries.


“The new format of the Champions League is a little worse for medium and small clubs, but it’s still a Champions League. It is not elitist, because small clubs will play in it. It was the pressure of the big clubs who always want more, but also contribute the most to our Solidarity Fund. I can tell you that any closed leagues like the NBA, a waste. This we will not allow.”


Since Čeferin has sat in the presidential chair at UEFA, a new football scandal emerged called “Football Leaks”, an affair which definitely concerns the president.


“A lot of this was discussed, and this is a serious problem. UEFA is responsible when it comes to clubs who do not pay taxes. But if it comes to coaches and players, UEFA has no authority here. For this only the individuals are responsible.”


The UEFA President also announced that the Euro tournament, after the next edition in 2020 where matches will be played in 13 European countries, will be restored to the format of one or two hosts, but with retention of the format of 24 teams in the final tournament which was first seen this year in France.


“There have been ups and downs in matches, as in every championship. The Netherlands did not qualify, even though there were 24 teams. Some smaller teams like Wales and Iceland played excellent, and from the financial side of things it was one of the most successful championships. The 24 team system should not be changed,” concluded Čeferin who finally ruled out of the forthcoming introduction of video technology to assist referees in matches under the auspices of UEFA.


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