Van Praag, Villar and Ceferin confirmed as UEFA candidates
By Brian Homewood
ZURICH (Reuters) - Dutchman Michael van Praag, Spaniard Angel Maria Villar and Slovenian Aleksandar Ceferin will contest the presidency of UEFA in September, European soccer's governing body confirmed on Friday.
UEFA said the trio, all heads of their country's respective football federations, were the only candidates to have submitted their bids by Wednesday's deadline for the election in Athens on Sept. 14.
The election has been called to find a replacement for Frenchman Michel Platini, who has been banned for four years for ethics violations.
Platini was banned, along with former FIFA president Sepp Blatter, over payment of 2.0 million Swiss francs ($2.02 million) made to the Frenchman by FIFA with Blatter's approval in 2011 for work done a decade earlier. He has denied wrongdoing.
The eventual winner will have to urgently address the issue of the Champions League, UEFA's flagship competition.
The possibility of a so-called Super League for elite clubs, or a mechanism which guarantees big clubs a captive place in the Champions League, has been discussed at private meetings, sources with knowledge of the matter have said.
UEFA needs to finalise the format of all its club competitions for the 2018-21 cycle by the end of this year.
Van Praag acknowledged when announcing his candidacy that UEFA has fallen into an impasse in Platini's absence and needs to tackle the Super League threat.
Villar, who has headed the Spanish federation since 1988 and been reelected seven times, announced his bid on Tuesday, one day before the deadline.
Ceferin says he has the backing of 13 Eastern European federations, four from the Nordic countries, plus Italy. His rivals have not made any comments about their support.
Platini was elected in 2015 and the winner will complete his mandate which runs until 2019.
The candidates will have to complete an integrity check, conducted by soccer's governing body FIFA, UEFA added.
($1 = 0.9880 Swiss francs)
(Editing by Rex Gowar)