Zvonimir Boban, the chief of football at European soccer’s governing body UEFA, has quit his role in protest over a proposal to change the organization’s statutes to allow president Aleksander Ceferin to serve beyond a third term.
UEFA statues limiting a president and executive committee members to a maximum of 12 years in their roles – three terms – were introduced by Ceferin in 2017 as part of a package of reforms he said were “essential for the strengthening of UEFA." However, there has been a growing push within the organization to change the rules to allow him to run for office again when his final term ends in 2027.
Cerefin has been in power since 2016 and won a third term in April 2023 after running opposed.
In an open letter published in the Croatian news outlet Telegram today, Boban has said: “I talked to UEFA's president about a problem that occurred during the last meeting of the executive committee in Hamburg – the proposal to change UEFA’s statute to enable Ceferin’s new candidacy after his final mandate runs out.
“After expressing my deepest concern and complete disagreement with the proposal itself, the president answered that he sees no legal or moral-ethical problem in it – and that he will, without any doubt, proceed with this idea that I find fatal.
“I fully understand that nothing is ideal, not least myself. I also know that many times we have to accept a logic of compromise but if I were to accept a decision that is this difficult and this wrong, turning my head from it, I would go against principles and general values in which I deeply believe. I’m not pretending to be any sort of hero and I know that many others have the same opinion [as me]. It is perhaps naive but surely correct.”
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In a statement, UEFA confirmed Boban’s departure, adding: “Boban joined the organization in 2021 as the chief of football and initiated several significant projects in technical development, including the establishment of the UEFA football board and the youth football forum.”
Draft proposals to amend the 12-year presidential limit were first uncovered by the Financial Times last month.
The proposed term limit changes have already been approved by UEFA’s governance committee and its executive committee. To be implemented, however, the changes must be voted on by the UEFA Congress on February 8, 2024, requiring a two-thirds majority from the organization’s 55 members.
Among its opposers is former Manchester United (English soccer heavyweights) chief executive and member of UEFA’s executive committee David Gill, who called the proposals undemocratic.
In addition to the term limit changes, UEFA has also proposed removing its 70-year age limit for executive committee members, which would allow some current members to stay in their positions for longer.
At the time of the report, UEFA said the changes would be considered by UEFA's congress in February, adding: “The legal committee proposed a number of changes to the statutes which clarify some existing provisions to ensure that none are applicable retroactively – in line with a basic legal principle.”
The move to allow longer tenures follows FIFA president Gianni Infantino being permitted to run for president again in 2027 after the FIFA Council, which he chairs, decided that his first three years in charge of the organization did not count towards term limits.
Infantino, like Ceferin, entered his position in 2016 via the corruption scandal that had forced out numerous top executives before their terms had expired, allowing for Infantino and Ceferin to argue that their first terms where they had taken over from others mid-stint did not count towards the term limits.