I wonder if Michel Platini reads this column?
No sooner had last weeks comment on the G-14 gone to print than a report appears that Platini – now vice-president of the FFF and one time close associate of Sepp Blatter – disapproves of the way the European game is heading. In fact he is quoted as saying that should he ever become president of UEFA he will abolish the Champions League.
What a wonderful and refreshing statement from a well respected and intelligent man. Not forgetting of course what a sublime player he was. I recall in the 1986 Mexico World Cup the sight of Platini and Karl Heinz Rummenigge casually having a conversation on the pitch prior to the start of the semifinal between their countries. A Frenchman and a German conversing in the tongue they were both fluent in – Italian. Platini of course was at Juventus at the time, whilst Rummenigge was playing with Inter Milan. How strange life is that these two individuals should end up on opposite sides of such a potentially important division.
As if echoing my thoughts, Platini says that “European football is a closed circus. The more matches there are, the more certain it is that the big clubs will win. Clubs such as Bayern Munich should also play in countries such as Malta and Andorra”. Platini advocates one massive 256 team European knockout competition. Its not as silly as it sounds. To get to the final a team would play 14 matches. That is 2 less than this years Champions League finalists will play.
He recognises the importance of the G-14 but like many feels that they are too powerful. And who can argue? The wonderful cyclical nature of football has been put at risk by the forces which drive the G-14. Can clubs such as Celtic, Liverpool, Marseille or Benfica just to name a few, ever be serious about being European champions again? I don’t think so. The cash flows associated with football in the 21st century are going in one direction…into the coffers of the clubs in the G-14. In Europe, at least, those clubs above are merely making up the numbers mainly because they missed the boat when the high finance age started in football. Football as we all know is no longer a game…. it is a business. Profits and cash flows are the market forces that drive our game now, not fan base and passion.
Of course going public with such thoughts will no doubt cause Platini problems. The G-14 will no doubt voice their discontent as Platini continues to rise through footballs power hierarchy. Potentially the G-14 have a lot to lose. Simply, they cannot afford to have someone controlling football that does not see eye to eye with them on the way the game should be run.
Platini’s successful organisation of the 1998 World Cup in France has seen him tipped as a future leader of both UEFA and FIFA. I may not be in Europe but if I was he would certainly have my vote. He shows a love for the game…not a love for money.