Re-elected Platini pledges to control football spending

  

UEFA President Michel Platini this week (22 March) pledged to continue his efforts to keep a lid on club spending and combat match-fixing and crowd violence following his re-election as president of European football’s governing body. 

The former France captain, in a speech on Tuesday, also promised to make international football a priority and to keep the Champions League open to clubs from the smallest of Europe's 53 national football associations.

Platini was re-elected unopposed for a second four-year term as president of European football governing body UEFA at a ceremony in Paris.

The Frenchman pledged to implement his so-called 'Financial Fair Play' policy, which is aimed at making clubs live within their means.

Those who do not comply could be barred from European competition, including the lucrative Champions League, from the 2014/15 season.

Financial fair play 'crucial', says Platini

"Financial fair play is a crucial project that will enable us to clean up certain practices within our game," said Platini, who also sits on world football governing body FIFA's executive committee, at the start of this week's Congress.

"There is a huge amount of money in football, but more importantly there is a moral problem in the way this money is sometimes generated and used," he added.

"We've convinced everyone, from the world of football to the European Commission and the European Parliament: I'd be a moron not to do it now!" he later told AFP, expressing his conviction that 'Financial Fair Play' was the correct course of action to take.  

The European Commission is also planning to explore how to share revenue more evenly between sports clubs, and is keen to address concerns over the size and legality of transfers of professional footballers in particular.

The Commission's communication on sport, presented by Sports Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou on 18 January, sets out concrete proposals for EU legislation to help establish the bloc's first ever sports policy, created by the Lisbon Treaty.

The Commission will launch a study on transfer rules and issue guidance on "how to reconcile EU rules on the free movement of citizens with the organisation of competitions in individual sports on a national basis," and "consider further action regarding the activities of sports agents," the communication reveals.

EU Commission: 'Time to evaluate transfer rules'

"Transfers of players regularly come to public attention because of concerns about the legality of the acts and about transparency of financial flows involved," the document states.

"The Commission considers that the time has come for an overall evaluation of transfer rules in professional sport in Europe," it further adds.

Commissioner Vassiliou recently added to speculation that the EU executive was considering capping the size of transfer fees in professional football by describing as "incredible" some of the recent multimillion-euro transfer fees paid for players.

"I am shocked by the recent transfer of Fernando Torres," she told EurActiv at last month's EU Sport Forum in Budapest, Hungary, referring to the Spain star's record-breaking £50m (€58m) switch from Liverpool to Chelsea in January.

"It would be rather premature to say whether we should put a cap, but I think it is a very bad idea to increase every time the money which is paid for transfers," Vassiliou said.

Corruption linked to betting activities, meanwhile, is widely seen as a considerable threat to football's integrity, and UEFA President Platini called for the authorities' help in combating the phenomenon. "We have our suspicions but we will give them to the justice authorities, because we are not policeman ourselves," he said.

"I also appeal to the players, because the players are the protectors of the game. It is they who play football, and it is they who should eventually inform us if people approach them to try and corrupt them. There is zero tolerance. The day that they are caught – players, referees, coaches, officials – they will be out of the game forever."

'European institutions must help': UEFA

The UEFA president urged public and political authorities to help the European football governing body to tackle issues like betting fraud and football-related violence.

"With the best will in the world, we will never be able to eradicate [these problems] by ourselves. That is why today we are launching an appeal to heads of state and government, and to those responsible within European institutions [...] Sirs, please take the measures that are necessary," Platini said.

His second term will also herald the centralised sale of media rights for national-team qualifying matches. All 53 UEFA member associations had signed a mandate for UEFA to implement the move. "The project is a football project rather than a commercial project," explained UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino.

"It is a football project to promote national team football and to bring it to the place it deserves – to do this, you have to have a concept, a brand, central marketing and sales in order to be able to present and prepare a product which has the appeal that national team football merits," Infantino said.

The European Commission, meanwhile, is also planning to encourage collective selling of media rights in a bid to ensure that revenue is shared more evenly between sports clubs.

Its communication on sport calls on sports associations to establish mechanisms for the collective selling of media rights to ensure adequate redistribution of revenue.

"Exploitation of intellectual property rights in the area of sport, such as licensing of re-transmission of sport events or merchandising represents important sources of income for professional sports," states the communication, adding that "revenue derived from these sources is often partly redistributed to lower levels of the sports chain".

But British members of the European Parliament have expressed fear that the EU will interfere with TV rights for the English Premier League.  

UK Conservative MEP Bill Cash argued on his blog that "the Premier League should decide how to sells its TV rights in the UK". "This is a domestic issue and consequently the European Commission should not interfere," Cash said.

Platini, meanwhile, told journalists he was sick and tired of the crowd violence that has plagued some Eastern European countries.

"I'm sick of it, hooligans, vandalism, everything," he said. "I'm sick of the fact people can't go safely to a stadium."

Positions: 

Speaking after his re-election, UEFA President Michel Platini thanked "the thousands of grassroots coaches and volunteers all over Europe who devote themselves out of passion and their love of football".

"They impart values to our children and grandchildren, guide them through the most wonderful school of life and help, in their way, to make our society a little better," he said.

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, president of the European Clubs Association, which represents 197 of the region's biggest clubs, welcomed Platini’s re-election.

"During his first term of office, President Platini has set a clear vision for the future of European football," said the former West Germany striker in a statement.

"In particular, we are very pleased with the support and understanding he has shown towards European club football. We feel privileged to have such a supportive partner and we look forward to a continued excellent collaboration in the future," Rummenigge said.

French Football Federation President Frédéric Thiriez said: "Michel Platini's triumphant re-election is a chance for European football to confront wider issues. It also brings pride to French football. Michel gives all his energy to defend certain values and fight against excess."

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