A year ago, the cooperation between the FIFA President and UEFA President seemed ideal. But then their relationship soured. The reason — the world Cup in Russia.
As the Russian influence on the election of the UEFA President
Last year football magazine Josimar exposed Russia’s influence on the election of the UEFA President and that the President of FIFA, Gianni Infantino just tacitly endorsed the candidacy of the unknown Slovenian. In this situation, the football unions of the countries of the European North have played a Central role.
One football the head of the Scandinavian countries told the journal Josimar that for Russia it is important that other and more democratic States would support the candidate of Russia, and it was Aleksander Ceferin, founder, because in the case if it were supported not only Russia, candidate it would seem more legitimate.
Immediately before the Champions League final between real Madrid and Atletico Madrid on may 28, 2016 Alexander Ceferin, founder came to a closed meeting to be submitted to the presidents of football associations from Scandinavia.
At the meeting, the Ceferin, founder, who at the time had not yet announced his candidacy for the presidency, received a positive recommendation from Hatila Seema (Kjetil Siem). The Norwegian had just left the post of General Secretary of the Norwegian football Association, it had an important post in FIFA, where he had become the adviser of the FIFA President on strategic issues.
Hetil Siem reap later denied what was said at this meeting on behalf of the President of FIFA, but a few sources that spoke Nettavisen and Ekstra Bladet, said that it is hardly possible to imagine that someone going to work for the FIFA President, might Express such support without the agreement of the President of FIFA. Open support in this case would mean that the FIFA President has violated the ethical standards of FIFA, on interference in elections in regional football unions.
Six days after this meeting of Scandinavian football unions issued a statement to the press in which he supported the candidacy Aleksandra Ceferin as the new President of UEFA, although the Ceferin, founder has not yet announced his candidacy and said that would do as President, if elected.
The argument boiled down to the fact that the Ceferin, founder will contribute to the reform and updating of UEFA. The Norwegian football President Terje Svendsen (Svendsen Terje) subsequently recognized that of the Slovenian candidate knew little.
Meeting with Russian
Five days after the appearance of the Scandinavian press statements Ceferin, founder Alexander went to Moscow to meet with Russian Minister of sport and President of the Russian football Union Vitaly Mutko and eleven other football unions supporting the candidature of Ceferin.
The main Scandinavian football head said before the election Ceferin that Russia has strategically behaved very cleverly, giving the Scandinavian countries to go ahead in this process. The Ceferin, founder, supposedly said in an interview with Slovenian newspaper Delo that he announced his candidacy for the presidency with the support of the Scandinavian countries.
However, much indicates that this process started long before the Nordic countries joined the election of the President. In an interview with the Italian newspaper La Stampa, the President of the Italian football Association Tavecchio Giorgio (Giorgio Tavecchio) said in March 2016 called him Vice-President of the Turkish football Association and asked for a meeting in Istanbul.
In an interview with La Stampa, Tavecchio claimed to have met with Vitaly Mutko and head of the American football Union and Alexander Ceferino. Tavecchio, said that he was asked to support Russia in an attempt to find a successor to Michel Platini, whom from-for suspicions in corruption from the post of President was dismissed.
This story coincides with the information from the Slovenian newspaper Ekipa24, which appeared immediately after Alexander Ceferin, founder, was elected UEFA President at the extraordinary Congress in Athens in September 2016.
Slovenian commentator writes that in March 2016 called him the source, who could tell that Alexander Ceferino was already guaranteed a victory after meeting with several football unions in one of the Balkan countries.
Slovenian Explorer confirmed the story on phone and said that information came from a reliable source, who had good contacts in football circles, but he didn’t want to say where he’s calling from or the country in which it was decided.
The Influence Of “Gazprom”
In addition to that Russia behind the scenes with UEFA is their ability to influence European soccer to achieve this goal, it uses economic resources.
“Gazprom” is the most influential football sponsor and the world’s largest producer of natural gas, he has direct ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Not only because the Russian state owns 51% of the shares of the company, but also because its leadership is also a number of Central raffled in Russian politics. Among the former leaders of the Board “Gazprom” we find, for example, former Prime Minister Viktor Zubov (SIC — approx. ed.) and former President Dmitry Medvedev. Now the Board is headed by Alexey Miller, previously he was the Deputy Minister of energy of Russia.
According to journalist Manuel Veta (Manuel Veth), which makes football the Futbolgrad website and which knows the connection between Russian football and politics, the rate of “Gazprom” on the football part of the Russian campaign to improve its image.
Besides that “Gazprom” is making a strategic bet on European clubs, he is also one of the main sponsors of FIFA, the sponsor of the UEFA Champions League and one of the main sponsors of the world Cup in Russia.
“It is dictated by political and strategic reasons,” said Manuel Vet in an interview with Nettavisen and Ekstra Bladet.
This activity began in 1999 when Gazprom became the main sponsor of “Zenit” from St. Petersburg, and reached its peak then, when Zenit won the UEFA Cup (Europe League) in the match against “Glasgow Rangers” in 2008. On participation of “Gazprom”, according to Veta, it was viewed as an experiment to promote the positions of “Gazprom”, Saint-Petersburg and Russia through football.
Manuel Vet says that the rate of “Gazprom” in football meant a change of focus began to do not on Russian investments in the banking and financial sectors, and the export of natural resources, and the driving force of this change was President Vladimir Putin, from the moment when he came to power in the Kremlin in the early 2000-ies. This change has led to the fact that today Gazprom is the world’s largest exporter of natural gas.
In 2005, Gazprom became the sole shareholder of St. Petersburg “Zenit”, the then President of the club David Traktovenko sold their stock and resigned as President. Today, Traktovenko belongs to an Australian soccer club Sydney, the club he bought from Australian billionaire Frank Lowy (Frank Lowy), who played a Central role in the struggle to get the world Cup in 2018 and 2022 In 2005, Zenit St. Petersburg became the richest club of Russia.
Then “Gazprom” became the most powerful investor in European football. In 2007 Gazprom became the main sponsor of the German football club “Schalke 04” and then we saw an example of a direct connection between the power elite in the Kremlin and a bet with Gazprom on the football.
When Schalke 04 sold to German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer (Manuel Neuer) to Bayern Munich in 2011, Vladimir Putin allegedly personally intervened in this deal, according to German newspaper Die Welt that Neuer left Schalke, he allegedly called the club’s management that they have suspended the transaction. But the sale took place, and Neuer changed Schalke 04 to Bayern Munich.
In 2010, Gazprom became the main sponsor of the Belgrade club “Crvena Zvezda”, and in 2012 entered into an energy contract with Roman Abramovich and Chelsea, and Abramovich close ties with Vladimir Putin, and he played a Central role in the Russian Committee for applying for the world Championship.
According to Manuel Veta, Gazprom and the Russian government with the help of these investments you want to gain influence in non-Russian football clubs and the football unions. Strategy aimed at buying influence in non-Russian football clubs, is reminiscent of the strategy that Gazprom uses to gain influence in non-Russian energy companies and the authorities in other countries, according to Veta.
In recent months between President of FIFA, Gianni Infantino and UEFA President Alexander Ceferino there was a conflict. The reason — the world Cup in Russia.
The conflict concerns the use of North Korean workers and who is responsible for the fact that human rights and labour law in the construction of facilities for the world Cup in Russia are not violated.
In the early years football magazine Josimar wrote that the construction of “Zenit Arena” in St. Petersburg — the stadium will be used during the world Cup next year involved 110 workers from North Korea. This arena is also used during matches of the trial world Championship in Russia.
Josimar described working conditions as slave-like, they lived also in terrible conditions. It was also alleged that the money they were not paid.
The British newspaper the Guardian continued the theme in June, it was found that conditions were even worse than I wrote about them Josimar, and the German TV station ARD has published the following this your exposure: it was found that workers from North Korea was used in the construction of the stadium for the world Championship in Moscow.
The UEFA President in the dark
The conflict between UEFA and FIFA over world Cup in Russia began at the UEFA Congress in Helsinki in April this year. Then Nettavisen and Ekstra Bladet asked the presidents of the Norwegian and Danish football associations in question about what action they will take after the exposure deserving of criticism of the use of North Korean workers in the Russian stadiums for the world Cup.
“We (the football associations of the Nordic countries, approx. ed.) is going to launch an appeal to FIFA to ask them to get in touch with Russia and to emphasize that it is unacceptable, said Svendsen Nettavisen.
Newly elected UEFA President Alexander Ceferin, founder reacted quite differently.
And on the FIFA website and on the website of the world Cup, the UEFA President is the head of the Organizational Committee of competitions of FIFA (Organizing Committee of FIFA Competitions). This means that he has the primary responsibility for taking care of all the tournaments FIFA has been organized correctly, this applies to the world Cup in Russia.
Alexander Ceferin, founder got his post from the former President UNFA Michel Platini.
On the website of the Russian organising Committee clearly States that the responsibility for the world Cup in Russia in 2018 is the Committee Ceferin.
When, during a Congress in Helsinki Nettavisen at the press conference asked a question about how the President of UEFA would like to respond to exposed human rights violations in Russia, the UEFA President even began to deny that is the President of this Committee. He also denied that he had heard about the use of North Korean workers in the construction of the stadium in St. Petersburg for the Championship of the world.
The chief of the press Department of the FIFA Hultman Hans (Hans Hultman), however, confirmed during the same Congress, that in fact Alexander Ceferin, founder is the head of the Committee.
Scandinavian unions send a letter
The situation became even more bizarre after the presidents of the football unions of the four Northern European countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland) on may 16 this year — two months after the UEFA Congress — sent a letter to the President of FIFA, Gianni Infantino, on the situation in Russia. They asked him to explain what had been taken by FIFA in this regard.
Nettavisen and Ekstra Bladet first of the media were able to get acquainted with the letter from the four Scandinavian unions and the response of the President of FIFA, Gianni Infantino to the appeal of the Nordic presidents. The first publication of these letters appeared in Ekstra Bladet.
In the letter, the FIFA President confirmed that FIFA for a long time knew that Josimar wrote in his report, after she conducted an investigation in September and November 2016. In the letter, in particular:
“Many of the unfortunate human rights violations described in the article as Josimar, was uncovered during our investigations on “Zenit Arena” in St. Petersburg in September and November 2016. The problems identified relate to health and safety, timely payment, and residence. Due to the relatively large number of violations discovered in St. Petersburg, compared to other stadiums where FIFA held the world Championships, but also because of an accident that occurred on a construction site, FIFA and the local organising Committee asked the contractor to immediately intervene and eliminate problems.”
In the letter Infantino also confirmed that during an inspection trip made on 22 and 23 November 2016, revealed compelling evidence that on site in St. Petersburg were actually workers from North Korea.
In the letter Infantino was also said that the issue was raised in conversation with the relevant company and the contractor. The inspection, done in March 2017, revealed that workers from North Korea at the site was no more.
The final conclusion of the FIFA was supported by the international builders and woodworkers (ISD), who examined the construction site. Infantino writes that steps were taken to prevent the use of workers from North Korea, as well as to improve working conditions on construction sites.
Subsequently, the Human rights organization Human Rights Watch has sown some doubts about the validity of these claims.
The letter of FIFA for the presidents of the football unions of the Nordic countries caused a sharp reaction of the President of UEFA, he sent to FIFA President a private letter in which he wrote of his dissatisfaction with the fact that he had received information about such situations through the media and not from FIFA directly.
FIFA is surprised by the reaction UEFA
The source, working directly for the President of FIFA, Gianni Infantino, said in an interview with Nettavisen and Ekstra Bladet that the reaction Aleksandra Ceferin was very surprised by FIFA.
The source asked not to be named, fearing it could intensify the conflict between FIFA and UEFA.
From a technical point of view, Alexander Ceferin, founder is responsible only for the fact that the world Cup was in accordance with the schedule, but not for the actual construction work or contractual arrangements between contractors, or the Russian Committee for the world Cup, but the source told reporters Nettavisen and Ekstra Bladet that he was UEFA President would have to personally take responsibility to check: whether all the allegations about a member country of the organization are true or not.