The FIFA President has never been a big fan of English football, but his latest comments should cause a bit of debate. Blatter has said he is concerned about the Premier League being the strongest in the world because other leagues can’t compete in terms of finance and the English game has too many foreigners. He also criticised the lack of competition in the league and foreign ownership.
It is basically a criticism of the entire way the English game works and he also put serious doubts over England’s bid to hold the 2018 World Cup by asking what the ‘advantage’ of England is. I know a lot of people see Blatter as a bit of a clown, but he is the most powerful man in football and as such, his comments should be considered.
So does Sepp Blatter have the right to question the way the Premier League is run? Let’s take a look and see.
In terms of competition in the league, I’m not sure the Premier League differs that dramatically from its Spanish, Italian and French counterparts. Lyon have dominated the French league for the best part of a decade now and other than Marseille, PSG and perhaps Bordeaux there aren’t many teams challenging them. In Spain the situation is fairly similar with Barcelona and Real Madrid trading the title off year after year with the odd year when a team like Valencia shocks everyone and takes home the title. In Italy it is perhaps a bit more open; you do have the massive teams in AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus, but Roma, Fiorentina and Lazio have all proven they they’re capable clubs that can challenge the order from time to time.
Blatter could be right about foreign ownership, but for that we’ll just have to wait and see what happens when a foreign owner decides to sell up or leave a club. If Abramovic were to drop Chelsea it could have a severe domino effect that could ruin the club. But that’s a worst case scenario. The same dangers exist with English owners though, and a perfect example is being played out at conference side Northwich Victoria. The Vics were bought by local businessman Mike Connett who basically ran the club to the ground and then left leaving the club facing liquidation and on the verge of going out of existence, and to this day the situation there is not yet resolved. I except the danger of this kind of thing is greater with foreign investors who have no emotional ties to the club but it can happen with any owner. Some Premier League clubs have massive foreign support anyway so perhaps the caliber of fan or owner should not be judged on nationality.
I would argue he is definitely right about the influx of foreign players. Over 65% of the players in the league are of foreign nationality, compared to below 40% in the Italian and Spanish leagues. It may disrupt the league in the short term if something similar to the 6+5 rule was implemented but I think in the long run it would be good for the English game. Clubs would have to put more effort into youth development and in time the standard of the English players would surely begin to rise.
Blatter’s comments should always be taken with caution when he is discussing the English game because of his obvious dislike of it. He hasn’t really added anything new to previous statements but it is worrying that he spends so much time criticising the Premier League instead of looking at other constructive ways to improve the world game overall.