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Keyboard Hero
8,368 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
A good article by Bobby McMahon on the future of how the game is governed. Elaborations more than welcome as the importance of the brewing problem here is immense....


A week or so ago it was acknowledged that the six most powerful team sports in Europe were knocking on the door of the European Union asking that they rethink their position on sport.

It should have come as no surprise as UEFA, along with the governing bodies of rugby, volleyball, basketball and ice hockey, announced just over a year ago that they would be joining forces in response to what they saw as “a very timid and indecisive attitude” taken in an EU White Paper on Sport that was issued in the summer of 2007.

While recognizing the vast array of problems facing sports within the European Union the White Paper offered no solution other than essentially maintaining the status quo of civil courts ruling on contentious matters – the same system that has brought about the problems facing sport in Europe today.

And there lies the key problem – without sport being viewed as as special case and not subject to the the laws and rules governing normal businesses we are destined to see an even larger gulf between rich and poor, an even greater degree of competitive imbalance and the paradox of a sport awash with money and slowly dying.

It is not as if UEFA and European Union politicians do not recognize the problem and in some cases agree on the solution. Almost a decade ago there was the Nice Declaration which accepted the beneficial qualities of sport and why sport should be treated differently. The benefit of sport to society in general was highlighted and it was stressed that sport as a business should be a secondary consideration.

"The European Council has noted the report on sport submitted to it by the European Commission in Helsinki in December 1999 with a view to safeguarding current sports structures and maintaining the social function of sport within the European Union. Sporting organizations and the Member States have a primary responsibility in the conduct of sporting affairs. Even though not having any direct powers in this area, the Community must, in its action under the various Treaty provisions, take account of the social, educational and cultural functions inherent in sport and making it special, in order that the code of ethics and the solidarity essential to the preservation of its social role may be respected and nurtured."

Fine words indeed but the declaration has never been ratified and it stands only as a testament to good intentions but no action. The Declaration came only four years after a EU court brought down the Bosman ruling which allowed players to move freely at the end of the contract.

The ruling, combined with an unprecedented inflow of cash to some teams through domestic television deals and Champions League money, has brought unprecedented wealth to a minority of players, agents and opportunistic owners ready to sell to any passing billionaire.

However, it is also brought unsustainable debt levels to many clubs regarded as the elite as well as those trying to stay competitive. It has also brought the risk of financial ruin to clubs that have spent heavily but found that they have missed out on a place in the Champions League or have been relegated. Only the most myopic amongst us can fail to see that soccer in its present form in Europe is operating under an unsustainable business model.

And it is an issue that has worldwide implications. We may be talking about Europe but because football in that part of the world generates more money than any other Federation the reality is that FIFA cannot impose global standards and regulations without ensuring that they will pass the EU acid test.

So why, if there is a level of agreement on what needs to be done, has no action being taken to deal with the problems and to allow sport governing bodies to govern their respective sports?

Some of it is down to history, some of it is internal bickering and a good part of the reason is that until lately sport governing bodies have been ill-equipped to actually govern and regulate in the 21st century.

It took a long time for UEFA and FIFA to wake up to the fact that the European courts held more power over sport than the governing bodies did.

Two decades ago then UEFA President Jacques George made it clear where his organization stood. “UEFA can make up whatever rules we want as long as they are within Swiss laws and have nothing to do with the EEC (now the European Union)” he stated arrogantly…and very mistakenly.

Even after the 1999 Bosman ruling it seemed that FIFA/UEFA’s strategy was to battle the EU rather than to work cooperatively with them. It wasn’t until implementation of global transfer regulations earlier this decade that FIFA clearly acknowledged the pivotal role played by the EU. FIFA was forced to amend some of the proposals when it became clear that some rules would be flagged offside by Brussels.

But even since we have seen Sepp Blatter aggressively push and promote his 6+5 proposal which would mandate a minimum number of players on a team that would also qualify for the domestic league’s international team.

Such a proposal runs contrary to the EU’s principle of the free movement of labor and there is not a hope in hell that under EU law that such an idea will ever be implemented.

The nature of the Blatter proposal can only serve to reinforce the notion amongst politicians and bureaucrats that soccer cannot be given special status because they cannot be trusted to operate within a broader range of legal and political principles.

As well it would be delusional to say that all the football entities that fall under the UEFA banner agree with the governing bodies’ position. The Premiership is one such example o####roup that has benefited from the changes over the last 15 years and has, at every opportunity, worked to undermine any proposals that might damage their narrow self-interest.

Another was the now defunct G14 which has now been replaced by the European Club Forum. The ECF is made up of over 100 clubs and it will at last provide a way by which clubs can have their issues communicated directly to UEFA rather than through the relevant domestic association.

Domestic associations have a myriad of stakeholders and issues and the clubs have long felt that there legitimate interests have not been given a fair hearing at the highest level in UEFA.

The creation of the ECF is seen as an important step in the reorganization of UEFA and moving it from a body that organizes competitions to one that is also is in a position to govern and regulate the game in Europe properly.

So does the latest initiative from UEFA have any chance of succeeding?

The proposals from UEFA and the other five major sports were of no great surprise dealing with issues such as home-grown players per club (defined very differently than Blatter’s proposal); a licensing system that takes into consideration debt levels; greater regulation of agents and better educational opportunities for youth players who may fail to make the grade.

A form of salary capping has also been discussed and debated on a number of occasions by UEFA. Such a cap would not mimic North American type wage restrictions which tend to focus on ensuring as even a playing field as possible by setting standard levels throughout a league. Such a system has little or no chance of being accepted by the EU.

However, UEFA believes that capping salaries based on a percentage of the club’s revenue would not run counter to EU rules and regulations. By relating the cap to revenue generation, UEFA could argue the position that they are merely mandating good management rather than capping what a player may earn.

Whether sport is given special consideration under EU law or not one thing is clear and that is that the majority of clubs are unable and unwilling to reign in their spending preferring to operate on the basis that someone richer and more foolhardy will come along to save the club at some point if needed.

Either the European Union has to confront the problem or provide UEFA with the powers to deal with the issue. Otherwise soccer in Europe will continue to suffer from the prune juice effect as so aptly described by former Tottenham Hotspur owner Sir Alan Sugar – to paraphrase, the money coming into the game is incredible but it comes in and goes out straight away.

It is time for the European Union and/or UEFA to find a way to add some fibre.



Keyboard Hero
8,368 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Awesome article. Respect!:thmbup:
Just wondering considering you're the only one to respond.

Think you, any chance this could come to a serious socio/political head?

I mean really, the notion that the EU courts versus UEFA will be a serious problem that could be decided by the hearts and minds of the people no?

The more the courts infringe on the will of the national bodies over a sport that many consider to be a national issue could in a sense spill over.

The notion of Europe isn't that strong as it was in the early 90's. They can't get a constitution and with what essentially is a shadow government, having the unelected courts make unpopular decisions, will anger people. Maybe to the point of some political changes.

Just a thought.


ps. Just doin' my job my future Whitecaps adversary...:thmbup:
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