Platini concerned over football's future

Platini concerned over football's future

Published Aug. 26, 2011 1:00 a.m. ET

UEFA President Michel Platini is warning of ''red lights flashing'' across Europe because of football's financial problems.

Platini confessed on Friday to fearing for the future of professional football because of clubs going bankrupt and running up debts, and players going on strike in Spain and Italy.

''There are a lot of red lights flashing,'' Platini acknowledged in his annual eve-of-season briefing linked to the Champions League draw.

''I am afraid for the future of football - it appears to be going pear-shaped in some areas,'' the France great said through a translator.


Platini began his equivalent of a 'state of the union' address by promising bad news, despite UEFA's marquee club tournament being a global success.

''I will be sending out an alarmist message,'' Platini said.

''It's not possible to go on with all these bankruptcies and debts without serious consequences.''

Platini spoke just before Serie A players announced they were striking, thereby delaying the start of their season this weekend. The players were objecting to extra taxes imposed on high-earners as part of a national austerity program.

The day before, Spain's players' union and league reached agreement on a dispute which saw the first round of fixtures canceled last weekend.

The peace deal includes a league guarantee to pay €50 million ($72 million) owed to more than 200 players in back wages.

However, six of the 20 clubs in La Liga are in bankruptcy protection, including all three newly promoted teams Betis, Rayo Vallecano and Granada.

''I'm not comfortable with what is going on in Spain and Italy,'' said Platini, who played in his 1980s prime for Italian giant Juventus.

''If football can't go ahead because players aren't being paid that is a huge worry.''

Platini used his platform to reiterate his backing for UEFA's financial fair play rules designed to curb reckless spending by top clubs. The rules took effect in July and will be phased in over several seasons.

''We will not be forced to take a step back on this,'' he said.

Under financial fair play, clubs face the ultimate sanction of being barred from UEFA's Champions League and Europa League if they cannot break even on football-related business.

However, Platini said his 53 national members could introduce their own version to apply to all clubs, and ''not just the big clubs who qualify for the Champions League.''

''It is not just UEFA that should be looking at these but national associations too,'' Platini said.

Platini said balancing the wishes of clubs and nationals associations in negotiations over a global calendar for international matches would be another of his major challenges.

The historic club vs. country conflict for players' time and loyalty spilled into a recent public spat between European Club Association chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

Rummenigge questioned whether Blatter was fit to run world football and called for a ''revolution'' giving clubs a more democratic voice.

''It needs to be solved on a political level and not a personal, aggressive level,'' Platini said of the looming calendar debate, adding that European clubs ''don't count for much'' in some FIFA decisions.

With FIFA mired in corruption allegations tainting several senior officials this year, UEFA had set Blatter a September deadline to show ''concrete progress'' in his promised drive to clean up world football.

Platini, who is a FIFA vice president, said on Friday he expected a progress report when Blatter chairs the next executive committee meeting, scheduled for Oct. 20-21 in Zurich.

''At that point we will see the type of proposals the president is making,'' Platini said.

Platini, like Blatter, won his own election unopposed this year, getting a second four-year term in March to lead European football.

''It's not glamorous to be FIFA or UEFA president. These are responsibilities,'' he insisted.

''I used to go to Fenerbahce and everybody loved me,'' Platini said, referring to the Turkish title-winning club which was kicked out of the Champions League on Wednesday while under suspicion of match-fixing.

''Now if I go to Fenerbahce, everyone will want to hang me.''