Michel Platini – Good For Arsenal, Good For Football?

Michel Platini’s election to President of UEFA is not altogether surprising. In the psychedelic world of football politics, Lennart Johansson is perceived to have carried out his role effectively but the overall memory of his reign is going to be that the rich got richer and the poor got nothing. In his place, we have an acolyte of Sepp Blatter whose last ditch intervention may have had the effect of swaying a few cronies and may have made a difference but overall I suspect he had no impact at all at that stage, having done his dirty work in the smoke-filled corridors beforehand.

Platini caught the media’s attention with his proposal to limit the number of clubs in the Champions League to a maximum of three, setting himself apart from his predecessor, whose attitude of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” will not have sat well with the voting delegates from the small to medium sized countries. Immediately Platini had put some clear ground between the two and you have to say that it is a politically brilliant idea; at once it is uniting and divisive, a ploy that Blatter will welcome and one that Machievelli would be proud of. Arsene commented today, “He is a very intelligent man and he loves football” . The latter is not in doubt, someone capable of producing such sublime skill on the pitch must be in love with the game of football; what had not necessarily been seen in the wider audience was the former. Any doubts in that respect should be dispelled by his proposed change to the Champions League.

The more you look at it, the more you have to admire the politics behind it. In the first instance, he is saying to the smaller nations that their Champions should be respected for their achievements and not shunted into the UEFA Cup just so that the fourth best team in England, Italy or Spain can add a few more notes to their increasing piles. Where Platini has really put the political boot in though is to open up another argument with the G-14 clubs. His manifesto is another attack at the clubs, looking to weaken their increading stranglehold on football. By attempting to marginalise the big clubs to the small, he is hoping to reign them in should they win either of their battles that they are fighting regarding compensation for releasing players for International duty. Yet there is a sop to the clubs in his proposal; three less difficult opponents in a prestigous tournament mean that firstly, none of the bigger teams have to qualify and secondly, their chances of winning the Champions League improve slightly and that will probably win them over to his side, should they of course object.

By relegating three well-known names to the UEFA Cup, he instantly raises the profile of that competition as the advertisers will be attracted back to a tournament that has frankly been lightweight in the last decade, devoid of difficulty in winning that was present until the mid-90’s when the Cup Winners Cup was unceremoniously dumped. However there is a downside to this strategy. The advertising and broadcasting pots are finite by definition and therefore, so the theory goes, any increase in revenues from those sources for the UEFA Cup will be funded from the Champions League. Whether that is the practical end of things remains to be seen.

So how is Platini’s plan good for Arsenal? In one action he has provided them with a tighter focal point, a reason to eradicate the poor performances that have marked the last season and a half of redevelopment on and off of the pitch. The performances this year indicate that there is every reason to believe that a corner has been turned yet that is only half a dozen or so games in a season so there are no eggs hatching yet. However, tightening the noose on the Champions League places ought to provide the players with motivation on a cold night in Lancashire or Yorkshire should any be needed. They all want to perform at the highest level so must put in the consistency of performance to achieve that. How long it is before the club give their official line on the plans remains to be seen as there are considerable hurdles to be overcome before they come to fruition, if they ever do.

Platini starts with an almost clean slate, many people will no doubt remember the player and allow him some leeway. Personally, I am in that camp and hope that the man who is quoted on UEFA’s website as saying,

“football is a great sport, a treasure, a piece of jewelry. It’s good that there are still romantics, 99.99 per cent of the people are romantics who love the artists, the players and football. There is not only politics, business, violence, hooliganism and corruption in football. There are also very nice things in football, and I belong to those people who defend these things”

is the one who runs the European game for the next few years otherwise we could all be up a famous creek without a paddle.

This photo is for my wife and in-laws; memories of 1984 when his freekick set France on the road to victory against Spain. Let us hope that the memory of Platini as a player enables him to restore some beauty to the Glorious Game as an administrator. A master puppeteer as a player, we trust not the marionette as an administrator with the hand of Blatter pulling the strings.

Posted on January 27, 2007, in Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Premiership, Soccer. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. I agree with your position on Platini and his ability to bring refrshing ideas to UEFA but we must be cautious in singing his praise to high heavens.Let’s wait a little bit for him to start his new vision for European football.
    Been a suceessful footballer does not translate to brillinat soccer adminitrator.

  2. I think that the personal alliance between Platini and Blatter, particulalrly with Platini indebted to Blatter for what can only really be an undemocratic election, could be murderous for club football.,,and therefore I would be very, very cautious about singing Platini’s praises at this stage. The English leagues in particular are vulnerable because we have a very weak FA which is prone to make unwise and foolish decisions.

    On the upside I believe that DD is well acquainted with MP though whether that extends to influence I have no idea. I would expect G14 to begin to mobilise and DD is obviously well placed to lead the group.

    Good or bad..he is bound to be both because he will make decisions that favour some and not others..thats politics.

    Not sure why everyone suddenly wants clubs in countries like Russia, Poland, Roumania to be better treated. If more money moves in that direction it is almost bound to be salted away into some dark, creepy recess rather than used to fertilise grass roots.

    Let us see.

  3. Great analysis, and admirably dispassionate coming from a Gooner.
    In my view, anything that shifts the balance of power and financial muscle away from the behemoths of made-for-telly corporate football is a good thing. More generally, while seeing intelligent life rather than a wizened cynic at the top in football is a refreshing experience, I’m prepared to think Platini is more a dreamer than a schemer.

  4. As a French man, it sadden me to say that those word: The election of Platini is a bad thing for Football.
    I understand that he promises a lot of thing without having a chance in hell in implementing it.
    If the team finishing 4th in the EPL, La Ligua, Calcio is better than the best team of Romania, replacing them with a worse team albeit champion of their league team does not make the Champion league more attractive.
    What they should be doing is changing the repartition of the money raised from the European competition.
    For example to give some money directly to the league.

    Platini is also against the introduction of technology in refereing. Every sport is embracing technology. Controversial referee decision does not enhance the sport, it just increase the change of bribe and deter casual viewer if they have the feeling that something is going amiss.
    By the way your analysis that pot of advertising is finite is technically accurate, but misguided.

    Currently nobody is intested in the UEFA Cup, as they do not have big name and it looks like a bad consolation prize for second tier team and failures from the CHampion league. So the UEFA does not raise the money they could in a more healthy competition.
    With a new format and better teams in it, it would attract new and better advertising.
    The same way, the League Cup (Carling Cup) is attracting a different sponsor and fans than the FA Cup.

  5. Personally I am not in favour of any sort of runner-up or below being in the Champions League; I would prefer a return to the three knockout tournaments of yesteryear plus if UEFA want to reward the also rans even further, make the Inter-Toto a fully fledged tournament.

    Johansson squandered a rich heritage of European Club Competition for the sake of the Champions League and that is the travesty of modern football. However, the CL is here to stay and that’s it because of the financial implications involved.

    Irrespective of whether or not the fourth placed teams in Serie A or whatever, are better than their Lithuanian counterparts, it is the latter who have a right to be in the “Champions” League not relegated to the UEFA Cup as opposed to the English, Italian and Spanish counterparts. But the rules are the rules and you cannot criticise the clubs for exercising their right to participate in the CL.

    Platini does not have too much input on technology in football directly. He is not on the IAFB so cannot say UEFA will not follow any of their rulings – he does have influence with Blatter and as long as the latter is in power, no progress will be made in this area.

  6. Forgive me but the consensus of the comments on this site seem to be that Platini is a good appointment because he supports moving football back into the dark ages. The past was no where near as wonderful as some seem to be implying. No-one seems to have put up any valid criticisms of the current EPL set up.Why change it?

  7. Sorry for EPL read ECL

  8. Frank,

    Not sure how Platini is moving football back to the dark ages by reducing the number of entrants to three rather than four?

    Personally, as you probably know, I do not like the concept of the ECL because I am somewhat of a football romantic in that respect – I just preferred the Champions Cup format, i.e. knockout and purely Champions. For what its worth, no-one has ever come up with valid arguments for the format of the ECL over that, other than it generates a bucketload of cash.

    And before anyone says about Paris last year, the club is competing within a format laid down by others which is how I am comfortable with it but if truth be told, I only get “excited” by the tournament in the knockout phases. The Group stage leaves me cold as there are too many dead games.

    The past may not have been wonderful but is the present setup any better?

  9. YW, I like the current setup, it allows for a minicompetition in the first three rounds for countriesteams which would not normally get a game. The second phase is a group stage which I enjoy becuase we get to play a variety of teams, and the knockout part is exciting as you say. Reducing the number of entrants from England, Italy, Spain etc is reducing representation from the countries with the most fans and who frankly have carried and paid for football for many decades. As for the past it is just the past and Arsenal did not have too great a time of it…now we do and I love it.

  10. I don’t disagree that the involvement of Arsenal makes the tournament worthwhile but to be honest, I feel that this is just a stepping stone towards an elite European League. A knockout tournament is more “exciting” – for want of a better word.

    In the Group Phase, realistically the seeded teams only need to perform well in their three home games and can get away with two defeats on their travels and still qualify. Is that any better than a straight knockout?

    Certainly for Arsenal finishing fourth last year and getting in was a boon but is it not perhaps morally questionable? As I said earlier, it is not the fault of the club but of the Governing Body and their desire to earn money that has taken over. Look at the Group games in recent seasons, whilst the team have won on a number of occasions how many genuinely good games have there been? With a knockout, the team have to perform in every game to progress, making it more difficult to win. If UEFA want to make it a genuine competition from the start then do away with seeding once the Group Format starts and have a free for all without restriction which may just make it better and more of a tournament than two months of a procession for the top ranked teams.

  11. I think we just have to agree to disagree.

  12. League Football is normally predictable with only a small handful of clubs able to win each season, this is why there is an elite of Clubs, those that in the past and throughout the present dominated their leagues. But Cup Football because of it’s unpredictability makes for sometimes undeserving winners (In the public perception). The current format of League and Cup Football (Group stage then Knockout) does make for a Final and a deserving Champion. The Format for these reasons shouldn’t be changed in any way, my only suggestion is that the Competion is compacted so that it doesn’t take virtually the whole season. It should be run as a Tournament, played week in week out during the season for 13 weeks, this would stop Clubs considering themselves Champions League Clubs.

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