Interestingly, FIFA President Sepp Blatter is concerned
about the world-wide appeal of the Premier League.
Well, there's a surprise.
The man who, along with Michel Platini,
seems to have it in for England and all things English, is worried that
the spread of the popularity of the "strongest league in the world" will
make it difficult for other leagues to compete. He also thinks
that because of the limited number of clubs who can win the title, this
is bad for competition in this country.
It is nice that someone is so fearful
about the future of the game in this country, but dig a little deeper
and you find that he is unhappy about clubs here buying and hiring
players and coaches from abroad and detracting from the leagues
elsewhere. Understandable when you have to be aware of the
viability of all the footballing parties around the world, but there
were no such reservations voiced when Italian clubs stock-piled players
just so that other competitors could not have them.
Blatter claims he will try to influence
Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore to bring in a quota
ruling so that a certain number of locally developed players will need
to be among the 18 match-day players named, but then complained that
foreign ownership is not in the best interests of football, hoping that
the current economic downturn might restrict the propensity of foreign
investors to bring their money to England and rather persuade them put
it into local clubs.
However, the reason that the Premier
League is so powerful, is because the business model has been successful
in terms of money making, if not in equitable competition for the prize
available. It has been said on this site in the past that
Manchester United were fortunate that after so many years in the
doldrums, they came good just when the Premier League hit it rich.
And from then on, everyone else has been playing catch-up, unless a
wealthy multi-billionaire comes in to pump the required finance to
promote a challenge at the top.
The English league has always been
respected as fair and free from corruption, unlike a number of leagues
across Europe and the world. It's "blood and thunder" approach to
the game has been admired as it is in stark contrast to what used to be
the slow defensive football of Italy, the slow attacking football of
France and the slower ruthless football of Germany. Unlike the
leagues in Holland, Spain and Belgium, it has the ability to throw up
some surprising results, where on any given day it is possible for any
club to beat one of the top sides. Perhaps it is that which
Blatter is trying to protect ?
But more than pointing an accusing finger
at the Premier League, perhaps the FIFA president needs to look a little
nearer home to find the root cause of the problem.
Why is English football rapidly becoming
dominated by an elite number of clubs ? Why was there a band of
clubs across Europe called the G14 formed in 2000 to try and change the
way European football's top competition was organised. And so the
new era of money making from the Champions League format was born and to
the victors the spoils. Well, not even the victor really.
Just about anyone who got into the competition did well out of it.
And you didn't even have to be a Champion to take part. Since
1997-98, runners up and then later anyone finishing anywhere the top of
the most powerful leagues in Europe was allowed to compete for the
trophy. It became a like a UEFA Cup for the top three or four
clubs in each country which had a high enough co-efficient from previous
The representatives thus eased away from
their rest of their domestic league competitors and advanced through the
stages of the Champions League, collecting cash as they went. The
raison d'etre for most clubs became qualifying for the Holy Grail that
is the Champions League, but it was usually the same clutch of clubs who
made it, thus further increasing the gap between the "have qualified"
and "the have not qualifieds".
So part of the story behind the lack of
competition for the top prize in English football can be laid at UEFA's
door. FIFA are in charge of UEFA, so, who is in charge of FIFA ?
Oh, yes. Blatter.