UEFA presidential candidates: Michael van Praag

On 19th August 2016 by Kieran

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Michael van Praag has been a prominent figure within Dutch football for some time. Following in the footsteps of his father Jaap van Praag, Michael became president of Eredivisie side AFC Ajax, with his highest footballing status before that being a player and referee in amateur football leagues within the Netherlands.

Despite this, Van Praag served Ajax as president for a total of 14 years, between 1989 and 2003. This turned out to be one of the club’s most successful periods, winning not only the UEFA Cup and UEFA Champions League, but also the Intercontinental Cup.

On the 27th August 2008, van Praag was chosen as the new president of the Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB), succeeding the late Mathieu Jeu Sprengers.

In 2009, Van Praag became a member of the UEFA Executive Committee having already served on a number of committees within UEFA before this time, including the Club Advisory Board, Competitions Committee and Ticketing working group, all between 1998 and 2006.

Upon hearing that UEFA would need a successor for the banned former president Michel Platini, Van Praag was first to declare his interest as a candidate.

The 68-year-old stated shortly after that “UEFA need a bridge-builder at this time.” and that he would be the one to act as such, expressing that “European football has lived in a kind of impasse for eight month” and that he would be the man “to pave the way for a new, younger president”.

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Is he the best candidate for the job?

A statement issued by the KNVB on the same day also stated: “He wants to finish the remainder of Platini’s two-and-a-half-year term”

It would appear Michael van Praag isn’t looking to implement radical changes to UEFA, but, instead is looking to use his experience to make UEFA a respectable organisation again, so it would be respected not only by fans but by clubs and leagues.

From his CV alone, it is clear that Van Praag has no shortage of experience when it comes to working for UEFA .

Van Praag has already served in a number of roles at UEFA since becoming an Executive Committee member. Serving as the Club competitions committee chairman for six years, as well as the HatTrick Committee deputy chairman for four years respectively.

Not to mention being the current UEFA vice-president as of the 30th June 2015, working under Michel Platini (until his four-year suspension from all football-related activities) and now with acting president Ángel María Villar.

During the two-and-a-half-year stint, Van Praag will look to address a number of issues. These issues include “the threat of clubs who want to start their own league”. This refers to the idea of a European Super League being formed away from UEFA, following reports of executives of Billionaire Stephen Ross’ company ‘Relevant’ having met with Premier League clubs Manchester United, Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea to propose the idea of the invite-only competition. However the Arsenal spokesman said: “Not Arsenal, nor any clubs at the meeting, are seeking changes to the Premier League and European landscape.” Although, this does not necessarily mean that it will not happen in the future.

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This idea could pose a significant threat to UEFA, not only in credibility, but in revenue. UEFA and van Praag in particular will look to put a stop to any plans before they develop. BT Sport paid a sum of £897 million on a three-year deal that began in 2015 for the rights to broadcast UEFA’s Champions League and Europa League football, a new TV deal for the rights to these competitions is due in 2018. Clubs will look for a bigger proportion of the inordinate amount of money that UEFA make from such deals. As van Praag already serves as part of the Club competition committee, it is likely he will have already explored all possible scenarios, to find the best possible solution and future for European football.

Van Praag also expressed in his statement that he looked to work upon human rights and discrimination issues within football in Europe. And that he would help to find how UEFA can better support the national federations that it governs.

The Dutchman has presented himself as just a short-term intermediary for UEFA, addressing the problems most pertinent to UEFA in the remaining two-and-a-half-years Michel Platini would have served as president of UEFA. He looks to bring UEFA back to being a “cohesive unit again” so that the following his presidency “UEFA will be about football again”. However, whether Van Praag can successfully address all of these issues  is an issue  in itself. The next UEFA president will only have until the next election in March 2019, with Van Praag stating he will only be president for that two-and-a-half-years if he is to be elected on September 14th, it leaves him only a limited amount of time to plan and implement the necessary changes to combat these matters.




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