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Not like selling Cola - UEFA's Ceferin defends autonomy of sport

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin holds a ball in his hand for a photo after an interview with the German Press Agency. Tom Weller/dpa
UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin holds a ball in his hand for a photo after an interview with the German Press Agency. Tom Weller/dpa

Growing government interference and investor issues are among the biggest future challenges for football, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has said.

Speaking in an interview with dpa, Ceferin said that sports and European laws were compatible as he defended the autonomy of sport.

"Sport is different from selling Pespi Cola or Coca Cola," he said, insisting that "the sports system has worked for 100 years."

The European Court of Justice and a Spanish court have ruled that Europe's UEFA and the world governing body FIFA could not use their position to threaten clubs and players for participating in other competitions such as a planned Super League. However, the ruling doesn't mean that such a league will become reality.

Ceferin didn't want discuss concrete court decisions but rather said in general terms "that more and more governments want to interfere into sports.

"Sports is popular, for sure. But they don't realize that will backfire.

"Sports is so strong because of the system. You can go from fourth to third and all the way up to the first division and there you can qualify for any European competition. If this privilege only goes to elites and clubs are not allowed to progress any more, football is gone."

Ceferin said that sports is about values and "should be governed differently. And as a lawyer I think sports laws and European laws are compatible.

"Europe is not in a fantastic situation. European governments have many problems to solve - but not to interfere with sports."

Looking at the investor issue, Ceferin said that "the biggest challenge is preventing football clubs from being taken over by groups or hedge funds that lack transparent ownership structures.

"Multi-club ownership further complicates the perception of fair play, and we have yet to find a definite solution to these issues.

"As investment interest in football continues to grow, I think this is the main challenge: how to be smart and allow finances to come to football, but not doing it excessively so that it hurts the sport.

"This is a complex issue, as we don't have the authority of law enforcement ... While investment is essential for the game's growth, investors must follow the rules," he said.