Platini has 'some ground' for concern says Asian chief

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The Independent Online

Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed bin Hammam feels Uefa chief Michel Platini has "some ground" for concern over the influx of foreign owners into the Barclays Premier League.

The Abu Dhabi United Group's takeover of Manchester City in August was the latest in a line of deals which has seen Britain's top sides sell out to overseas investors.

Platini felt clubs should be doing more to protect their roots and wants to introduce measures to prevent the trend developing across Europe.

While Qatari national Bin Hammam, who like Platini also sits on the Fifa Executive Committee, would much rather see the billions of Middle Eastern investment going into the confederation's own clubs, he feels little can be done to prevent such business across the globe.

"Coming from Asia, from a different culture, where these things never existed, it seems strange to have foreign ownership of clubs and huge debts. This is a new vocabulary for us," Bin Hammam said at a media briefing in London this morning.

"Michel has raised it and it is his continent. A continent which is leading the way. Maybe he has some ground with that."

Bin Hammam continued: "But people are not only investing in football in England.

"They have bought a nuclear power station, big businesses and big banks.

"Foreign investment in England is nothing new. It is regulated.

"It works in accordance with the law of the country and governs the movement of people and their capital.

"Absolutely I would prefer the money to be invested in Asian clubs - but business people are looking for business opportunities.

"We don't have much world-class football to be invested in. In the future I hope we will."

Platini, the former France international, claims clubs are losing their identity as a result of all the foreign investment.

"If you bring people from Qatar and there is no-one from Liverpool or Manchester at the club, where is Liverpool or Manchester?" he said.

"I think it is not good. I think the Qataris should invest in Qatar. They should develop the football in each country."

Platini added: "Can we do something against it? I will try to," he added.

"Do you want in Liverpool an Arab sheikh as president with one Brazilian coach and nine or 11 African players?

"Where is Liverpool in that? We have to make some rules.

"What is football? Football is a game and this game has become popular because of the identity.

"You have to have identity, that is where football's popularity lies."

Platini's remarks follow similar comments from FIFA counterpart Sepp Blatter that "something has to be done about these billionaire owners".

The financial state of football has come under scrutiny lately due to the global credit crisis.

Football Association chairman Lord Triesman this week called for a salary cap for players to try to safeguard the future of clubs.

Current estimates suggest English clubs are collectively £3billion in debt.

Platini believes a limit on wages could have merit, but does not anticipate anything being implemented in the near future.

"We have to speak about the number of contracts in the clubs, we can speak about salary but I am not an expert, I am an expert of football, of the game," he said.

"The rest we have to learn. We have to go slowly and to look at what we can do, but it is necessary for the good of football."

League Managers' Association chief executive Richard Bevan, however, claims a cap is not the answer.

He said: "Too many people feel that salary caps is really actually about wage caps and that is actually illegal in Europe.

"Rugby league and rugby union are two exceptions because they were in financial difficulties and people were keen to move into salary caps, but that is not the answer."

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