Scottish FA chief executive Stewart Regan insists the decision to back Aleksander Ceferin for Uefa president was the best thing for the domestic game amid reports that losing candidate Michael van Praag would have given Scottish clubs a better chance of gaining access to the Champions League.
The SFA was one of 42 federations to vote for the little-known Slovenian, including almost all Uefa’s smaller and middle-ranked nations, with only 13 opting for the Dutch football chief van Pragg to replace the banned Michel Platini.
Reports that van Praag was more in favour than Ceferin of scrapping the new Champions League format which will hand four automatic places to clubs from England, Germany, Italy and Spain from 2018 and make it even harder for Scottish clubs to qualify for the lucrative group stage are wide of the mark.
Indeed, it is understood that 68-year-old van Praag was one of the Uefa executive committee members who actually drew up the controversial deal that has enraged the majority of Europe’s major leagues.
Although the SFA was one of five federations who nominated van Praag to become Fifa president last year – he subsequently withdrew from the race – Regan explained why Ceferin got his vote this time. One of the biggest reasons was his opposition to the new Champions League deal.
“We are big fans of Michael van Praag and met him several weeks ago at Wembley. At that time we were very supportive and felt he could lead Uefa for a short period of time, stabilise it, and put some foundations in place,” said Regan.
“That was the plan before we met Aleksander Ceferin in Glasgow around three weeks ago. We were hugely impressed because he put forward a very honest assessment of what he thought was happening within European football.”
Europe’s top clubs, under the umbrella of the European Club Association, have publicly endorsed the Champions League deal and Regan says it is entirely false to suggest Ceferin is less keen than van Praag to pick it apart, however difficult that might be. On the contrary, in fact.
“He was very critical of the manner in which competition allocation has been conducted and of the way the Champions League and Europa League proceedings had been played out, tying up European football for several years.”
Celtic kicked off their group stage Champions League fixtures by being thrashed 7-0 by Barcelona but could miss out on the money-spinning business end of the tournament from 2018-19 if the new arrangement that favours the most successful clubs from across Europe sticks, since access will be harder.
Regan disclosed that the SFA only finally decided to go for Ceferin 48 hours before the ballot. “We felt that given there are 55 associations that need to work together to challenge the threats Uefa are facing, all of us needed to be united and that Aleksander had more chance of doing just that,” said Regan, who revealed he is part of a newly established Uefa working group looking into the implications of the reforms and who met Wednesday afternoon in Athens.
“In fact, Michael was part of the original process to make the recommendations to change the Champions League. He had endorsed and approved them. He couldn’t then really distance himself from that.”