Sunday 8 June 2008

Platini - xenophobe at best

Not much is happening on the Arsenal front, so I won't bore you by filling this page with transfer gossip, that would be rather tiresome. Euro 2008 is underway, it hasn't exactly set the world on fire as yet, however it's still better than having nothing at all on the box. I'm sure it will pick up a bit once a few of the weaker nations have been sent packing, then the real competition can start. Only one group promises some real competition and we all know which one that is.

Michel Platini, great player in his day, but appears to be a rather repulsive piece of work judging from his efforts as a political stooge thus far. The UEFA president has labelled certain English clubs as cheats, from the horse's mouth:

'it is the clubs who cheat that are winning'

I am not claiming I'm a fan of the ethics behind Roman Abrahmovich's empire or the way in which the Glazer's have mortgaged Manu up to the hilt, however to single out English clubs in this way is immensely stupid given the behaviour of other big European clubs.

Michel Platini is obviously not an economist, as there is nothing illegal about the way in which the Glazers have increased Manu's debt and set about paying it off with revenue. It is a silly gamble for the Glazers to take in some ways, but it is entirely legal. Abrahmovich certainly obtained his funds in rather dubious ways to say the least, however again there is nothing illegal about the way in which he has bailed Chelsea out. What does Platini intend to do? Ban any club with any debt or just ban English clubs because he doesn't like them?

Silvio Berlusconi's role at Milan appears to me to as bad as anything in Europe, he is a corrupt dictator and has even manipulated the Italian law in order to avoid prosecution, he continues to bankroll Milan with his corrupt media empire. While Real Madrid have effectively had their debt paid off by the Spanish government, a very dodgy deal in 2000 saw their training ground sold for a rather over generous price. I haven't even touched upon Juventus and the Agnelli family, the Italian match fixing and the leniency of UEFA, Porto and their bribery of officials, match fixing in Germany and on and on. I certainly reckon that English clubs would have taken a much bigger blow on the chin if found guilty of such bribery and corruption.

Platini and Blatter should think before they open their rather greasy and unpleasant mouths, they should also attempt to get their own houses in order before they begin lobbing stones at our English castles. In actual fact English football has been remarkably free from corruption compared to football in other European countries and corrupt institutions like FIFA, I just wonder what the motives are behind Platini's biased diatribes? I think many of us would be very happy for UEFA to try to root out the corruption and cheating in the European game, however this has to be done consistently and fairly across the board.

Currently Platini is unfairly picking on people he doesn't like, while not adequately dealing with the cheating and corruption that he could and should do something about. Luckily for English football, I think the likes of Platini and Blatter will find it very tricky to selectively punish those they simply don't like, there is a thing called European law standing firmly in their way.


Proops said...

Normally I like your blog, but you've got this one completely wrong. It's the UK press that's xenophobic, not Platini.
In France, it's against the rules for a club to go into debt. Both Marseille and Bordeaux have been relegated for this offence. The reason's pretty obvious: you just borrow millions and buy a great team so you can win anything, even if it's not sustainable. So you end up with a whole load of clubs like Leeds.
In Germany too, there are financial limits due to supporter ownership of clubs.
So in European competition where you have some clubs investing huge amounts of money they don't have, there's definitely a discrepancy and many people would call it cheating. As a cultural aside, you'll note that it's illegal for individuals in France to be overdrawn on their bank accounts, so this kind of debt is really not in the French psyche.
Just because other people's clubs are tainted by allegations of dirty money doesn't mean you shouldn't speak out against those that are pseudo-clean, but whose practices should still be banned.
We praise Wenger for not driving the club into unsustainable debt, so we shouldn't speak out against Platini when he criticises other clubs for recklessness.
Did you know that both Sunderland and Tottenham spent more on transfers than the Milan clubs put together last season?

1979gooner said...

The point is that it is simply not 'cheating' as it is breaking no rules.

I'm happy to listen to the argument that massive unsustainable debt may be a very bad thing for football, however surely clubs can big risks if they wish?

I wouldn't want Arsenal to spend unsustainably and dangerously.

However there is no rule against it and it therefore cannot be called 'cheating'.

Maybe we need some more rules against excessive debt in England, however it's not an easy thing to draw a line, as it can be a very grey area indeed.

If anything I would lump a bit of the blame at the FA's door for indequately policing things, surely something could be done to stop the likes of the Glazers and their taking excessive risks at the expense of football supporters?

1979gooner said...

good article from martin samuel, sort of reiterates what i've been trying to say!

Ted said...

I am a little concerned by some of the apparent innaccuracy in Proops' article. I am by no means an expert on French football, but I don't recall Marseille getting relegated in 1994 for any reason other than match fixing and bribery by the Bernhard Tapie led management.

I am aware that Bordeaux were relegated in the early 1990's for financial reasons, but I don't know what they were. The French are not as "debt free" as you suggest - its not illegal to be overdrawn, as such, and overdrafts are very common. People have to pay fines in the UK for unauthorised borrowing as well, its just that we do things slightly differently.

However, the point is that these teams were not relegated for "going into debt". The vast majority of commercial transactions, including football clubs, involves debt being taken. Instead, the issue is when the club can no longer pay its debts as they fall due - that is bankruptcym which is quite different, and the English FA rules were changed after Leicester went into administration (a pre-stage of formal bankruptcy) in about 2001. Leeds were hit this year with a points deduction for also going into administration. You therefore cannot "cheat" in the UK in the manner that Platini alleges.

I also completely agree with 1979Gooner that Platini cannot say that the English clubs are any worse than anyone else. The Tapie Marseille era was built solely on bank rolling an incredibly expensive team, for its time, that swept all before it.

There is no doubt that many of the Spanish and Italian teams also cannot pay their debts as they fall due, at least in the past, and have relied on generous benefactors to effectively bail them out. Valencia are on the brink of financial ruin at the moment. I would also add the Lazio team of the Erikson era to the list as another example of a bankrupt organisation that spent its way to the Scudetto.

The other issue however, is that Platini may have a point that football should think about imposing a financial cap on clubs, one way or another, and is simply making his point badly, at least from the English perspective, by attacking the English clubs. Alternatively, Platini may also be tapping into a strong feeling in other nations that are more financial conservative and who all vote for UEFA, that would agree with his attacks (and would probably simply add Italy and Spain to the list of "cheats" as well).

When talking about Milan, lets also not forget that the season when they spent less than Sunderland and Spurs is the season after Milan were relegated for bribery.

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