Foreign owners such as those at Manchester United and Liverpool are "a serious threat" to European football, the Uefa president, Michel Platini, said yesterday, blaming them for obstructing his Champions League reform.
In a letter to all 27 European Union leaders – including Gordon Brown, Germany's Angela Merkel and France's Nicolas Sarkozy – Platini asks them to protect the sport from "a distortion". The letter says: "A serious threat hangs over the development of European football: the malign and ever-present influence of money."
Platini's special adviser, William Gaillard, said the former France international believed the billionaire backers of Manchester United and Liverpool were behind the opposition to plans to give domestic cup winners a Champions League spot. Last week, the G14 group, which represents 18 of Europe's most powerful clubs, said it was opposed to the proposals.
"I know G14 have said this but from our discussions it seems the main opposition is at Liverpool and Manchester United, who have investors out to make a quick buck and are only looking at the financial risks of the reform plan and not the sporting merits," Gaillard said. "By giving away a spot in their league to cup winners, they see this as reducing their chances of entering the lucrative Champions League."
Gaillard was quick to differentiate Liverpool and United's American owners from Chelsea's Russian owner, Roman Abramovich and Milan's Silvio Berlusconi, who, according to Gaillard, Platini believes "love the game and are not just in it for money".
In his letter, Platini says: "Money has always been in sport ... but money has never been the ultimate objective of football, the main purpose has been to win trophies. For the first time we may be entering an era in which financial profit alone will be the measure of sporting success."
Liverpool's chief executive, Rick Parry, described the letter and Gaillard's comments as "absurd". Manchester United were unavailable for comment. "I made it absolutely clear [to Platini] last week that I was representing the views of the majority of English Premier League clubs when I said we do not support the reform plan," Parry said. "I didn't even discuss this issue with our owners prior to last week.
"Bottom line is that allowing the cup winners into the competition devalues the Premier League."
I do love reading about Platini and Gaillard discussing Liverpool, as they always seem to have an even-handed and fair judgment of the club.
Not much else needs to be said, the article says enough. That and there are only so many ways I can complain about Platini and Gaillard without repeating myself. They simply never take their feet out of their mouths.
I especially like the part where Gaillard claims that Gillett and Hicks are money-grubbing bastards, while Roman Abramovich is a saint solely in it for the good of the game. That’s just too much.
If it weren’t so insulting, and potentially damaging to the game (and club) I love, it’d be hilariously farcical. I just can’t make this stuff up, and I do not understand the obvious grudge against Liverpool that these men have.
Good on Liverpool (and United) for taking this stance. Entrance into the Champions League should be based on league competition; I’d be saying that no matter which team I rooted for, although admittedly, being on the same side as the G14 does make me feel a bit dirty.
But it is a bad idea and dilutes the quality in the CL, end of. That Gaillard is attempting to argue on behalf of “sporting interests” just takes the cake, and I find it hard to believe it was said with a straight face.
And good on Gordon Brown for telling Platini to cram it where the sun doesn’t shine.