The telegraph has a very interesting interview with the UEFA President. Anyone who talks about the game belonging to the fans and protecting clubs from debt and destruction certainly has the right intentions. Unfortunately, the approach he has taken to achieve these is fundamentally flawed.
Firstly, let me deal with the Arsenal side of the interview. I don’t think this particular interview is anti Arsenal per se. Have a look at the following part
“You have talent in England – it’s up to you not to buy always the best 13-14 young players in Europe,” said Platini, nodding at mention of Arsène Wenger’s recruitment of Cesc Fàbregas from Barcelona’s academy.
“… nodding at mention…”, It is the hack who brought Arsenal into the conversation. Once the topic was raised, Platini probably just continued talking about us as one example. We know that he has a particular dislike for Arsenal/Arsene but that is a separate issue and this interview certainly covers a much broader context.
If the journalist had asked Platini whether it was acceptable for Spanish clubs to sign young South American kids we might have known his true colors. It is down to the incompetence and sensationalist nature of the hack that he could mention Arsenal but not another club for comparison. Anyway, if the ban on transfers comes into place it will apply just as much to Barcelona as to Arsenal, so you cannot really say it is a crusade against Arsenal.
Let me clarify once again, I am not defending Platini or saying that he isn’t anti-Arsenal. I am just saying that this is a separate issue. The point here is much bigger and the ramifications much more serious for football in general. He gives some interesting examples
… in Germany where no foreign owner can have more than 50 per cent of shares in a club.
In France, the stadiums belong to the city, who decide what is good for them
I like the Barcelona model. The fans are the owners and you can never have a foreign owner. It’s great.
These examples are small parts of different socio-economic and sporting structures i.e. systems that govern football in that particular country. How do we decide which approach is the best? How do we decide whether different parts from various systems need to be sewn together to form the best structure? Essentially, the question is, what metric can we use to judge whether a system or part of a system is practical, just and sustainable?
Clearly, Platini uses nationalism as his metric. According to the French legend, clubs should be owned by citizens of the country where the club is, players should come from the country of the club and only a citizen should be appointed as the manager of the national team.
This strong sense of nationalism is also the fundamental flaw in Platini’s approach. In that sense he is the complete opposite of Arsene and this could be the reason for his antagonism towards Le Boss. The principle of nationalism raises many questions like,
- Why should the games from one country be televised in another country?
- Why should a player from one country be allowed to play in another country at any age?
- Why should a club get sponsors from another country?
- Why should the principle apply to nations and not cities? At what borders do we stop?
Unless the fundamental flaw in his thought process is challenged there won’t be any meaningful discussion. In my opinion, football is the single biggest unifier in the world. It brings people together like nothing else can. For instance, I am an Indian who is living in America and writing about an English club. I get readers from Singapore, Australia, Kenya, Norway, and pretty much everywhere in the world.
Can there be a better platform that spreads the message harmony and peace around the world? Can there be a better way to fight racism? How can fragmenting the game on national lines be a sound and justifiable approach? Arsene has repeatedly and clearly explained how this system harms the development of football as well, so I am not discussing that.
Platini wants to take the ownership to the fans and ensure that the businesses are well run. There is nothing wrong with the ends he is trying to achieve. But can these ends be achieved by rules determined by politics rather than reason? We all know that good intentions can wreck havoc when backed by flawed principles. Somebody has to remind him that he is a Frenchman.
Liberté, égalité, fraternité Monsieur Platini; Liberté, égalité, fraternité!