Platini & UEFA Protecting Football's Future
Almost six months ago now I was present at the Supporters Direct annual conference when William Gaillard, UEFA's Director of Communications made it very clear that "football fans are a key stakeholder group in football" and "football is the people's game and at UEFA we want to keep it that way". Those key phrases stayed with me ever since.
It's been less than a month since Michel Platini was elected the new President of UEFA however, it is clear that he feels that same way. On election to his new post Platini made the following speech:-
"Although my election as President of UEFA in some ways stirred up the same emotions I experienced when I won major trophies as a player, my new role is more that of a coach, in the true sense of the word.
My aim is to convince the leaders of European football to share my vision of football. It has been said that my vision of football is romantic or idealistic, but I believe that, in the long term, it is the right way to ensure the survival of our game and maintain its extraordinary popularity.
We should not be seeking instant reward and selling our "products" to the highest bidder, but making sure that our competitions have as wide an appeal as possible and doing everything we can to guarantee that they are attractive both in terms of the quality of play and results that are not a foregone conclusion.
Of course, football needs money. It needs it to improve the education of coaches and, through them, the skill of players. It needs money to improve its facilities, to offer players the best possible conditions and spectators a safe and comfortable environment. It also needs money to develop grassroots football and to fulfil its social responsibilities by contributing to youth education.
On the other hand, football has no use for profiteers, for people who, seeing how successful football is as a business, get involved for their own personal gain. Football has to encourage ideas and knowledge to be shared. It must insist on respect - for opponents and for the referee first and foremost. If it cannot rid society of its ills single-handed, it can at least set an example by promoting solidarity, fair play and fun.
Naturally, you have to be an idealist to believe that the common interest will prevail over personal gain, that the laws of sport will silence the rule of money, that players, clubs, leagues and associations will speak with the same voice. But being idealistic does not mean dreaming; it means wanting to improve things.
By electing me as UEFA President, the majority of UEFA's member associations indicated that they were ready for a change. Now it is up to me to be a good coach and to convey my ideas to the rest of the team."
Last week Platini told Austrian and Swiss media representatives at UEFA headquarters that one of the cornerstones of his philosophy at the helm of European football will be to protect the game's essential values.
Platini said to those present "Football changed enormously (around) 15 years ago because there was the colossal arrival of money through private television. Private TV channels were created and expanded, and they rushed to football matches to acquire the rights. From that moment, people wanted to buy clubs. A new world arrived within football's existing world.
The second aspect was the Bosman verdict - football took off in all directions, and we were missing a 'regulator'. What I want - in a collective manner - is, together with the football family, that we reintroduce a set of rules into the sport in an economic sense.
Football has taken on a different, mercantile dimension, I don't want people to take football hostage. Because such people will sell football like they sell yoghurt - not to make it popular, but to do business.
For 100 years, football was presided over by experienced people with a long career in clubs or associations. In the last 15 years, however, young businessmen have come into football who profit from the game, to make money and a name, and to be known. Football is a product (to them) like any other.
In the middle are people like me, many of whom are sporting people who want to defend certain sporting values and protect the values that we knew. I'm not against business at all, but if business takes football hostage then we (risk) losing everything."
I like what I hear coming from Platini, Gaillard and UEFA, I just hope they have the power to come good on their promises as clearly their vision for the future of football and fans alike are full of common sense and good moral ideals.