Platini voices fear for European soccer's future

Platini voices fear for European soccer's future

Published Aug. 26, 2011 12:12 p.m. ET

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

Platini confessed on Friday to fearing for the future of professional soccer 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 said 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 the 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 had the first round of games canceled last weekend.

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

''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.

''We will not be forced to take a step back on this,'' he said of the rules, which took effect in July and will be phased in over several seasons.

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 soccer-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.