Last year's triumphalism long gone, UEFA faces subdued Congress

Thu Apr 28, 2016 11:56am EDT
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By Brian Homewood

ZURICH(Reuters) - After last year's UEFA Congress, president Michel Platini declared, "We're transparent, we're democratic and we're the best." That triumphant air will be gone from this year's event after a spate of scandals that led to Platini's banishment from soccer.

European soccer's governing body has not yet appointed a permanent successor, so the agenda for its 2016 Congress on Tuesday in Budapest is unusually thin, restricted to four items that are likely to be resolved in one morning.

A year ago, Platini had just been re-elected to a new four-year term as UEFA chief and was basking in the financial success of UEFA's showcase Champions League competition.

Within weeks, global soccer body FIFA was engulfed by corruption scandals and its ethics committee banned Platini from soccer for eight years, later reduced to six on appeal, over a 2 million Swiss franc ($2.02 million) payment he received from FIFA in 2011 for work done for its disgraced ex-president Sepp Blatter a decade earlier.

On April 6, Swiss police raided UEFA lakeside headquarters seeking information about a contract signed by former UEFA secretary general Gianni Infantino, who replaced Blatter, that emerged in the Panama Papers leak.

UEFA said the issue concerned Champions League TV rights it sold to an Ecuadorean broadcaster via an intermediary. It denied wrongdoing by either itself or Infantino.

In the light of Platini's absence and Infantino's departure, Europe's big clubs have been pushing behind the scenes for radical changes, which could include automatic places for some of them in the Champions League.

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, head of the powerful European Club Association (ECA) which represents more than 200 clubs, has already spoken of a European Super League that could be organized with or without UEFA.   Continued...

Flags with the UEFA logo are pictured outside the Union Europeenne de Football Amateur (UEFA) headquarters in Nyon November 25, 2009.  REUTERS/Denis Balibouse