Čeferin: Of course it is possible to exclude Real Madrid

The last two places in the new Champions League from 2024 will not go to historic clubs that did not advance to the competition from their leagues [więcej o reformie Ligi Mistrzów w tym artykule]. Why did you think about it? To please the greatest?
We just realized that in order to hold our model, we had to give these two places this way. I have no problem admitting that the first idea was incorrect. We are stronger if we are ready to backtrack on our initial mistake. Now I am fully convinced that was the wrong option.

Why did you consider this? Were you under pressure?
I’m under constant pressure … It was an option, but not to protect the big clubs, but rather to promote our games. However, she wasn’t good.

Was this Champions League reform that works so well really needed? You seem to have done it to please the big clubs that threatened to form a Super League.
Just because something works well doesn’t mean you should never change it. Always try to improve. Four new places are added. One of them will go to France, which is normal. Believe me, it’s not made for big clubs. They have no guarantee of promotion.

Still, it feels like a little Super League in your performance.
More clubs and more games is not Superliga. Superliga are always the same clubs playing against each other. French clubs are extremely interested in this new format.

Are you sure this new formula will interest people?
If I wasn’t sure, I wouldn’t be doing it. It will be much more interesting. In the current formula, in the group stage, we know who will be promoted after 2-3 matches. From 2024 it won’t be that easy, even for big clubs.

Why did you cut off two queues (from 10 to 8) in the league phase? Isn’t that proof that you made the wrong choices with this new formula?
Not. Just ten matches was too many. The team will play the same number of matches at home and away in eight games. Sport is a better choice. Again, I have no problem changing my mind.

You dropped the final four idea. Why?
I like the idea, but the reality is that it creates problems because clubs are losing matches, losing ticket revenue, losing so-called hospitality… And the broadcasters want more meetings. Therefore, we abandoned this idea. From 2024 there will be no final four. And then? You never know.

The Madrid Court allowed you to punish three clubs (Real, Barcelona and Juventus) that still want to start the Superleague. Why aren’t you doing this?
First of all, decisions can always be appealed against. When this process is over, we will be able to act.

Is it possible to punish Real Madrid, which will have perhaps 14 European Cups after this season?
It is possible to punish any club.

Some people doubt it.
They are wrong. The rules are the same for everyone. If I were to comment on everything that people say every day … They also complain that UEFA earns billions when 93.5% of funds go to the clubs. How do you explain this when nobody is listening? Believe it or not, all clubs are treated the same: are they from my home country Slovenia or are they big names in European football.

So you can rule out Real, Barcelona and Juventus?
Of course it is possible. However, it will have to be decided by the Disciplinary Committee, which is an independent body.

You negotiated directly with Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic, to move the Champions League final from St. Petersburg to Paris.
I have not negotiated with President Macron. I went to the Champs Elysees to inform him of our desire to move to Paris. We knew we had to leave Petersburg because it was impossible to play in Russia. Paris has not had a final since 2006. It is symbolic because France leads the European Union. Paris is a great city and I also appreciated that President Macron supported our model against the Super League. He was the first political leader to speak out publicly. The only problem in Paris is the ticket battle. Everyone wants to come. I told some friends, “I don’t have any more seats, but you can sit on mine.”

Nasser Al-Khelaïfi, president of PSG, helped you stand up to the Super League …
[przerywa] He didn’t help me, he helped football. If the Superliga were founded it would affect everyone, including PSG. He is wise and he understands it.

What do you think about him?
I respect him. He’s crazy about football. He loves PSG and is a valued member of the UEFA Executive Committee.

He is so “crazy” about football that he and Leonardo went mad about referees after PSG dropped out in Madrid. We are still waiting for his case to be dealt with by the UEFA Disciplinary Committee. As he is also the president of the European Clubs Association, have you been waiting for important topics to be dealt with, such as financial fair play or the new Champions League?
Conspiracy theories are fantastic! In Europe and around the world, we still believe that everything is decided behind the scenes. It’s a joke. The Disciplinary Committee has opened an investigation and no one, neither you nor I, knows what’s going on. Why should I call them? I never do that. Even for financial fair play. I do not have time for it. Besides, there was no rush to judge Nasser. PSG has fallen off.

Why has financial fair play been loosened?
It has not been loosened. It is even more restrictive. Even Javier Tebas [prezes La Ligi], like the entire Executive Committee and the rest of the European football activists, thanked us for the new financial fair play. It had to be modernized because times have changed. If investors don’t come to football, they will go somewhere else.

Gianni Infantino, president of FIFA, assures that he was not behind the plan to play the World Cup every two years. What do you think about that?
Formally, the offer came from Saudi Arabia. However, I would say that it was also a FIFA idea. I appreciated that they understood the idea was wrong. I hope and think it’s not on the table anymore.

What if she comes back?
We’re not gonna play it.

Do you trust Infantino less after this episode?
No, same.

So you didn’t trust him before?
In football, I believe everyone up to a certain level. And at what level in each case, I leave it to myself.

You said recently that the weakness of Ligue 1 weakens PSG.
PSG is not being undermined by Ligue 1, but obviously it’s not good for the club to be much stronger than the rest of the competition. However, Ligue 1 is getting more and more effective.

Are you satisfied with the VAR system?
Initially, VAR was too slow. Now it works much faster in the Champions League. However, burned by 5 millimeters is always a problem for me. If you have a big nose or a big foot, you get punished. I also have a problem with my hands. Nobody gets it anymore. This should be clarified. Figo recently told me that if he didn’t know what to do with the ball today, he would have kicked the defender’s hands …

Like Gianni Infantino in FIFA, you want another term in UEFA. For glory? For money? For power?
I didn’t officially announce it, but I can confirm to you that I am thinking of a launch. I want to continue my work. People seem happy with me because European football is really united. It’s not about fame, power or money. I went through a terrible time in a pandemic. We had to move three times in the Champions League finals to cope. We also had the Super league, the World Cup every two years, EURO in eleven cities … I would like to take advantage of the calmer times now. One of my directors told me, “We already had everything but the war.” And now, unfortunately, we also have a war.