Greed Works

How The Soccer Oligarchs And Their EU Allies Will Turn Soccer Into Desert

Ozren Podnar reports...

USA | Japan

Michel Platini wishes to change the European soccer back to the good old ways, giving more chances to clubs from less fortunate countries for entering the now-elitist Champions League.

In fact, Platini, a candidate at the UEFA's presidential elections to be decided next January, has repeatedly stated he dislikes the current European club cups system dominated by the teams from England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France.

He liked it better the old way, when each country had one representative in the old European Cup and when there was not such a quality or a financial gap between clubs from England or, say, Romania.

In early November FIFA's president Joseph Blatter signed a "letter of understanding" with the Professional football players' union (FIFPro) hoping to establish a quota of six national players per team on the field.

When Blatter spoke of the "historic agreement" with the players' union in Barcelona, he defended the six-player quota per team as a measure to foment the formation of players in youth schemes and reinforce club identities. Much can be said of Blatter's shortcomings, but he is spot-on as far as the top European clubs are concerned.

FC Arsenal Paris

Football News Not only have top European clubs such as Arsenal, Chelsea and Barcelona lost their local, regional or even national identities, but in doing so they have ravaged hundreds of less fortunate clubs all around the world, stripping them, and their fans, of their biggest talents. That's a disaster, but the wealthy clubs' owners and managers do not seem to have reached the level of shame to recognize what exactly they are doing on a global level.

Hundreds of millions of soccer fans almost everywhere around the world would wholeheartedly welcome the changes proposed by Platini and Blatter, but how far they are from becoming reality. Foes are formidable: the twenty-odd wealthiest clubs plus their allies within the European Union legislative body.

It is not surprising that Arsenal's manager Arsene Wenger confronted Blatter with an utterly callous reply that the only criterion for signing a player should be "quality rather than nationality". Who else could make such a statement if not Wenger, the creator of a non-British incarnation of a club that used to proudly represent north London.

Apparently, Legia Warszaw, CSKA Sofia, Dinamo Zagreb and Ujpesti Dozsa would also like to hire top quality players, but they have found they lack the resources for that.

Wenger's statement, strangely reminiscent of Marie Antoinette's "let them eat cake" reflects the opinion today's soccer moguls have of Blatter, Platini and their egalitarianism ideas.

For G-14, the group uniting the most prosperous European clubs, the danger of creating a footballing desert everywhere outside their little El Dorado is too insignificant for concern or too remote to perceive.

Draining The Resources

These 20 clubs that include Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, Arsenal, Inter, Milan, Bayern, Lyon, PSV plus a couple of dozen other clubs from the European big leagues, have sucked in about 1000 of the top world players, who are now sorely missed in the places where they came from.

They are missed by the fans, the media and the sponsors in South America, Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe.

Imagine what would happen to the less privileged countries if the EU or the US "signed" all their best doctors, engineers, professors and scientists from around the world, just so that their companies could maximize their profit?

What's worse, the hundreds of smaller clubs that have been mercilessly drained over the past decade never get their due compensation.

The big clubs who sign dozens of Argentinean, Brazilian, Uruguayan, Nigerian, Serbian or Romanian players surely know that large chunks of the transfer fees never end up in the original clubs' treasuries, but rather in the pockets of obscure player agents and various private "investors" who sponsor talented players until they are transferred abroad.

Soccer's "Rain Forests" Threatened

What the owners and managers of the big clubs are doing to soccer is equivalent to destroying a whole animal species in part of the world, regardless of the consequences, such as the disruption in the food chain and the destruction of habitat.

The damage that is being done to world soccer is comparable to the destruction of rain forests to the global climate.

If the looting of clubs in the less wealthy parts of the world is not enough, now the national teams have come in doubt as well.

National teams, the last protected hunting grounds in modern soccer, may well be counting their last years or months, because the greedy capitalists who own the leading EU clubs have thought of a wonderful way to keep their imported players from going away from time to time to play for someone else - their homeland.

Millions of soccer fans around the world are trembling at the thought of the ruling pending at a court in Charleroi, Belgium, regarding the already infamous Oulmers case. If they are not trembling, well, it means the news has not come their way.

Belgian club Charleroi sued FIFA for damages over the severe injury sustained by the Moroccan Abdelmajid Oulmers while on international duty. Charleroi claims they missed out on Europe while Oulmers recovered and ask for 615,000 euros compensation from the world footballing ruling body, since their player was injured in a FIFA organized game.

French champions Lyon have chosen a similar but parallel path, they sued the French FA over the injury to Eric Abidal while playing for France. If any of the two suits prospers, the precedent will be set for clubs to exact damages for any player injured on international duty.

Sounds logical, right, since it is the clubs who pay the players' salaries, and if they get bruised while on loan to a national team, let the national FAs or FIFA pay for it.

Who Needs National Teams?

If damages are imposed upon the soccer governing bodies, then surely a system of injury insurance would be introduced. If the wealthy clubs have it their way, any national FA would have to deposit an insurance fee for a player to be released by his club - a fee that not all FA will be able to afford, with easily predictable consequences for the international soccer.

But, if the clubs are so concerned for their international players' health, why do they strive to have so many of them on their payrolls?

Why don't they settle for cheaper footballers who do not appear in international games and thus do not run such risk?

By waiving a part of the privileges provided to them by their very position within a prosperous EU market, the merciless and selfish clubs would do a tremendous favour to millions of interested parties.

However, it would be a tad unrealistic to count on their social and human sensibilities. The fate of soccer as we know it now depends on a judge in Charleroi and the representatives in the European Parliament, whose sensibility to anything but the capitalists' profit is equally improbable.

What Would Mr. Spock Say Mr. Manders

The Dutch representative in the European Parliament Toine Manders is soon to become another antihero for the legion of soccer fans from outside of the EU (and many within it, too). This 50-year old has proposed a law that would enable the clubs to act like any company, that is, to ply their trade anywhere on EU territory.

In plain English, Manders's legislation would give legal grounds to a club to switch league competitions and indeed physically relocate. Why would not Porto or Benfica join the Spanish league, or Celtic and Rangers move to Premiership?

Who cares about the other Portuguese and Scottish clubs which would remain in their rump national leagues, stripped of their vital elements?

Would that not be the ultimate reversal of Star Treks' Mr. Spock's words of wisdom, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few...or one."

In the EU's interpretation, it is the needs of the greedy few most ruthless clubs that outweigh the needs of absolutely anybody else.

Ozren Podnar

Related Football Links

Terms of Use

"The Onside In-Site" Copyright © From 2000. All rights reserved. Soccerphile Ltd.

Top of Page