Friday 20 February 2009

The boot is on the left foot

Many of us are not always convinced by the French left. But an exception can be made for Michel Platini, and not simply in tribute to how France won the 1984 European Championship in such enormous style, but out of recognition for the effective way he is using his mandate as UEFA President, both in pursuing gradual and incremental reforms to somewhat rebalance European football, rather than always acceding to the demands of the biggest clubs, and also in being a public advocate for much greater scrutiny of the direction of the game and the need for effective governance.

The Times had a good report on his speech to the European Parliament, and The Independent carries an extract:

For the past 15 or 20 years, we have grown tired of hearing that there is no need to regulate, that the market regulates itself, that excesses and imbalances will disappear of their own accord, and that the growth of income in football is an endless upward spiral.

We now know that none of this is true: that in football, as in the economy in general, the market is incapable of correcting its own excesses – and it was not the UEFA president who said so, it was Barack Obama.

The Premier League may well feel challenged by the Platini agenda. The BBC finds some left-right splits among British MEPs, with Labour's Richard Corbett thinking Platini is raising important issues, but the Tories and UKIP sceptical or opposed.

But it is perhaps surprising to see LibDem Graham Watson proposing the Premier League as a good model for football in other European countries. As every football fan knows, the redistribution of income upwards through the Premier League combined with the Champions League restructuring has made English football very much more predictable than it was, with only four clubs able to even think about winning the league. Those concerned about the causes of falling social mobility could find some interesting lessons from football.

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