Zeljko Pavlica is UEFA’s head of security. In the 14 months since he was given the role, he’s presided over three chaotic major finals.
The 2021 European Championship final, in which hooligans ran amok and luckily no one died. The 2022 Europa League final, when stadium staff confiscated medicine and water in the scorching heat, taps went dry and concession stands ran out of supplies, and it was lucky no one not be dead.
And the 2022 Champions League final, when fans were choked, crushed, robbed and gassed, and it was lucky no one died. We cannot say that it is not coherent.
UEFA security chief Zeljko Pavlica (left) presided over three chaotic major finals
More recently, fans were crushed, robbed and gassed during the Champions League final in Paris
Stadium staff confiscated medicine and water from Rangers and Frankfurt supporters in Sevilla
So quite a record. But Pavlica is not just any incompetent. He is an incompetent who also happens to be a close friend and compatriot of Aleksander Ceferin, the UEFA president.
Pavlica was external head of safety and security at UEFA in 2014, but two months after Ceferin became president he was given a full-time role, a position that had not been publicly announced. .
Again, no wider recruitment was ordered in February 2021 when he was promoted to his current seniority position. Good job if you can get it. And with the best man at his wedding also being the UEFA president, it looks like Pavlica can.
Pavlica happens to be a close friend and compatriot of UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin
He’s not alone either. Slovenia has become a hotbed of influence since Ceferin took power. Take arbitration. Since the 2016-17 season, Ceferin’s first full year in charge, 12 different referees have been appointed to UEFA’s major club finals. None from the Premier League, none from Belgium or Portugal, only one from Germany and Spain.
But Slovenian referees have led three finals, more than any other nation. The 2017 and 2022 Europa League finals, the 2019 Champions League final – all had Slovenian officials.
What a coincidence that the referees who rise to prominence under Ceferin are those who share his nationality. And what a coincidence that the best man to enforce security and keep crowds safe at UEFA Grand Finals is also his good friend Pavlica.
Slovenian referee Damir Skomina refereed the 2019 Champions League final in Madrid
Resign. That’s what Pavlica should do. Ceferin too. They had their chance, this dream team, and it’s lucky no one died.
And it’s safe to say that the local police are the ones letting the hooligans run wild and allowing the stewards to make stupid decisions to seize the water bottles at the entrance, and the head of UEFA security is in largely helpless – but then what good is it at all?
Pavlica has already talked about reviewing match security in detail on the eve of the game, assessing access points and inspecting the stadium.
So what was his response when told how the police were going to deal with the fans when they arrived at the Stade de France? What did he say when told in the Seville Cauldron that water and medical supplies would be confiscated?
UEFA are lucky no one died following the chaos outside the Stade de France
Hooligans went wild at Wembley Stadium ahead of last summer’s Euro 2020 final
When shown the location of the Boxpark site near Wembley last summer, did he see the danger in letting so many ticketless fans swarm the area? Didn’t he ask questions, express doubts, express suspicions? This is incompetence on an extraordinary scale. A near miss would be unacceptable. Three? How is he still in a job?
We can all guess the answer to that. Just as we can guess why the person chosen to investigate what went wrong in Paris is Dr Tiago Brandao Rodrigues, a member of the Portuguese parliament and a close ally of Tiago Craveiro, Ceferin’s senior adviser to UEFA, having worked previously with the Portuguese Football Association. Liverpool are believed to be unimpressed.
Then again, Manchester City were too when one of the UEFA members sitting on the Financial Fair Play judgment turned out to be former Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry.
Amazing how these jobs move, isn’t it? Did you know that Michel Platini’s son-in-law, Yohann Zveig, composed the original Europa League anthem? Of all the composers in the world, they chose him? Fancy.
Dr. Tiago Brandao Rodrigues has been selected to investigate what happened in Paris
Manchester City weren’t happy that former Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry took part in UEFA’s investigation into their Financial Fair Play dealings
Yet no one died. Not Zveig’s composition, or Slovenian refereeing, or entrusting investigative tasks to a friend of a friend. It’s just old-fashioned UEFA cronyism. Disgusting, but not deadly.
Leaving Pavlica in charge of safety and security, however, is another matter. He has had three failures so far. Dare we risk a fourth? Should we even consider this?
Who do they answer to, these people? It can’t just be each other. It can’t just be their friends. UEFA is made up of member associations. Where are they in there? Where are the Football Association, the Spanish FA, the Scottish FA, the German FA? It was their supporters who were left unprotected, their fans who were treated with contempt.
Does anyone think he’s gone too far? No one is ready to make that call? If fans are put in life-threatening danger under the supervision of the UEFA Safety and Security Officer, he should leave. As his boss should. Three shots, out. Why the silence?