UEFA President Michel Platini has stepped up to defend international football in the face of criticism from European football clubs about crowded fixture lists and ‘meaningless friendlies’.
In remarks published on UEFA’s website (www.uefa.com), Platini said:
“National teams have always been the supreme expression of national football since 150 years ago when England first played Scotland,” he said, after clubs complained about the international fixture list.
“But today we face a match calendar that is increasingly crowded and for which the ideal solution has not been found…I would like to set the priorities straight – defending national teams is top of our list at UEFA,” Platini added.
“I am a former national team player and there is no bigger honour for any player than to wear the jersey of the national team.”
His remarks should be seen in the light of two facts:
1. Most of his time at the head of European soccer’s governing body has been devoted to the so-called “Financial Fair Play” policy to control club spending – what some people say is part of a policy (supported by FIFA president Sepp Blatter) designed to limit the power of football clubs in general.
2. UEFA’s primary international football tournament, the European Championships, earned UEFA roughly 300m Euros in net profit out of 1.3b Euros revenues in 2008 (after accounting for operational costs (600m) and distribution to UEFA member countries (450m)) (source). In comparison, UEFA spent 746m Euros in 09-10 in prize money (tv revenues and performance-related payments) for the Champions League – assuming that UEFA keeps 25% of revenues for itself after accounting for expenses, we’re looking at 200m to 300m Euros in profit, every year.
Now I could be wrong. UEFA could be making 100m / year, not 200m. But what it points to is that the Champions League seems to be a bigger earner than the European Championships, mainly because of it’s season-long approach.
So when we look at Platini’s comments again, it’s more of a political gesture than a factual one – he still has plenty of work to do to get the Financial Fair Play system in place, and ultimately the responsibility for international fixtures falls on FIFA and national football associations of each member country, not necessarily on UEFA.
The solution? Reduce the amount of domestic football being played (responsibility of the domestic leagues / clubs), and compensate clubs whose players are injured while playing for their country (FIFA). If both sides worked together, the problem would be resolved.
Wishful thinking, isn’t it?
Also See: A Tale of Two Men (starring Michel Platini and Sepp Blatter in a revealing commentary about football’s power struggle).