Michel Platini: European football clubs may be in danger of financially imploding

Friday 20 February 2009 01:00

Professional football is no more a financial service than it is an agricultural activity.

It is just as absurd to want to regulate football through the automatic application of competition law as it would be to do so through the Common Agricultural Policy. Although I do admit that football also helps the grass to grow.

There is an organic link between the bottom and the top of the football pyramid. The measures taken at the top, whether financial or sporting, have repercussions on the training clubs – often amateur – that make up the grassroots of football. Even the golden summit of our pyramid is occupied by clubs that are no larger than medium-sized businesses.

We must not delude ourselves, for even huge clubs like Manchester United or Real Madrid are financial dwarves compared with Microsoft or Exxon. The turnover of most European first division clubs is smaller than that of their city's largest supermarket.

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.

During this year's festive season, one club which had suddenly become very rich made various astronomical bids in the transfer market. Of course, there was a tremendous outcry in the football family, people called it outrageous and scandalous. Is it morally acceptable to offer such sums of money for a single player? Many people have responded by talking about limiting players' wages by introducing a European salary cap.

One thing is certain: European clubs are currently telling us our system is in danger of financially imploding in the medium term. I believe that it is reasonable that UEFA should be able to decide independently under what conditions clubs may participate in the competitions that it organises.

From an address by the president of the Union of European Football Associations to the European Parliament on Wednesday

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