Tag Archives: G-14

Dinner with Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini

I didn’t know what to expect that night when I pulled into the parking lot of the Red Lobster. I’d suggested meeting at the Union League—had gotten reservations, in fact—but Mr. Blatter’s assistant called back, quickly, to tell me in no uncertain terms that there’d been a change of plans. I didn’t see them when I got out of the car, so I waited, a little unsure of myself, by the entrance. A sign stuck to the glass of a giant lit-up menu case alerted the public to the fact that it was “Crab Crackin’ Wednesday,” and that a pound and a half of snow-crab legs could be bought for $19.95.

After a few minutes, I felt the telltale buzz of my Motorola vibrating in my pocket. Through a thick French accent, a voice on the other end said, “You are at ze Red Lobster?” Then: “Stup it, Seppy, he says he is zayr, be quiet! Yes? We will arrive shortly. Seppy, stup!”

A loud metallic clanking drew my attention to the 1986 Cadillac Seville sedan slowly rounding into the parking lot. Through the windshield I could see FIFA President SEPP BLATTER with both hands on the wheel, intently piloting the car toward the nearest parking space. Beside him, the unkempt mane of UEFA President MICHEL PLATINI was partly obscured by an enormous fold-out map.

Blatter got out of the car and came toward me, beaming. He had a small cowboy hat in his hands and, as he approached, he planted it firmly on his head. Platini followed—somewhat sulkily, I thought.

We exchanged greetings. Vanessa showed us to our seats.

ME: Did you find the place okay. Did you know how to find the place.

MICHEL PLATINI: Our map, you see, it was from…what is ze name again? Denny’s.

SEPP BLATTER: Look! They have the “Admiral’s Feast”!

MICHEL PLATINI: It did not show anysing but other Denny’s restaurants.

SEPP BLATTER: Great heavens, that’s a lot of food for $18.95!

MICHEL PLATINI: Ze one-way streets…zey were unknown to us.

SEPP BLATTER: I simply adore this country. I feel like I can stretch out!

MICHEL PLATINI: We could easily haf driven from Denny’s to Denny’s, in an unending loop, forever, like two damned souls.

ME: Interesting. Did you try Google maps. Are you familiar with that concept.

MICHEL PLATINI: Bah! I do not understand zis sing, zis “internet.” What is ze meaning of a simulacrum whose purpose is to be co-extensive with ze sing it simulates? Ze reality within, it bears no substantive relation to ze reality without, and yet, zey are ze same? How can I use zis, “sidewalk view”? All zese automobiles frozen in place on ze highways. What are ze semiotics of memory?

BRANDY: Can I take y’all’s order, please?

SEPP BLATTER: I’ll start with the Southwest chipotle Habanera shrimp poppers. Then, the “Admiral’s Feast”.

BRANDY: To drink?

SEPP BLATTER: Great falcon in the morning, I haven’t even considered the drinks menu yet.

SEPP BLATTER: Bring me one Kahlua mudslide with your finest top-shelf liquors, Brandy, if you please.

BRANDY: And for you, sir?

MICHEL PLATINI (miserably): Filet of halibut.

BRANDY: I’ll put that in for you, sir.

ME: So the big news this week is that you have crushed the G-14. How did you do that. What gave you the idea that you would crush the G-14.

MICHEL PLATINI: Peter Kenyon, he says to me, “Michel—

SEPP BLATTER: —my belle!” (giggles)

MICHEL PLATINI: “Michel, we can seize zis opportunity to strike a blow for ze underprivileged football clubs, and for underdogs everywhere, like Chelsea.”

SEPP BLATTER: “These are words that go together well!”

MICHEL PLATINI: So we said, zese big clubs, zey have ze money but zey do not haf ze numbers. You say, one of Barcelona is worth ten of Trabzonspor. I say, but zayr are fifty Trabzonspors. You say, of course, but zayr is only one Trabzonspor, ze well-known “Black Sea Storm” of Hussein Avni Aker Stadium, in Turkey. I say, ah! But it is figurative. You see?

SEPP BLATTER: Look here, it’s like Elvis, understand? Just when the Colonel thinks he can run everything…BAM! (smashing his fist into his palm) That’s when the King strikes!

MICHEL PLATINI: So we formed ze European Clubs Forum. Now, ze G-14? Zey are not ze only organized group. Now zayr is an answer to ze question, “Who will speak for Chelsea?”

SEPP BLATTER: You do not step on my blue suede shoes. You do not step on them!

MICHEL PLATINI: And so ze G-14, zey decide zat it is better, yes, to work wis zis new group. Zey will try to dominate it from within.

SEPP BLATTER: And by the neck of the great Fitzgerald, I’ll stop them.

MICHEL PLATINI: I will stup zem wis you, Seppy. We are a team, remember?

SEPP BLATTER (shaking his torso at Platini in a gesture that is somehow aggressive and taunting): A one for the money! A two for the show! A three to get ready, now, go, cat, go!

BRANDY: Here are y’all’s dinners. Careful, sir, that plate’s hot.

ME: I guess the big question I have for you is this. Why do you keep having ideas. What are your ideas good for. What do you think you will accomplish with them.

MICHEL PLATINI: What do you mean? Ideas are ze ripe mind’s fruit. We are men, we are—

SEPP BLATTER: Sweet Mary mustache, this is a fantastic piece of shrimp.

ME: I mean, the game is pretty good, right? Soccer, right? It’s pretty good? And yet you two are always strutting around on the sidelines in like black vulture hoods tutting about how one thing or another ought to be different.

MICHEL PLATINI (shrugs): Sings can always be improved…

ME: Sure, but I mean, that doesn’t even seem like why you’re in it. Some of your ideas are sort of sensible, but some of them just seem like making chess out of politics, man. Today you want extra officials on corner kicks. Yesterday you were tinkering with the Champions League. Tomorrow it’ll be computer eyes on the goal-lines, and next Thursday you’re going to want seatbelts for every seat in the stadium. You’ve got silver goals and golden goals. It’s about net effect, here, man. You’re giving people the idea that fixed things are broken, man. Why do you do that. Why do you have to do that.

MICHEL PLATINI: You are suggesting we are intellectual vulgarians, Monsieur?

SEPP BLATTER: Are you implying I’m some sort of crass opportunist?

ME: No, it’s just—

MICHEL PLATINI: But listen! Without our ideas we are nothing more than—

SEPP BLATTER: Clerks!

MICHEL PLATINI: Accountants!

SEPP BLATTER: Shop boys!

MICHEL PLATINI & SEPP BLATTER: Ridiculous!

MICHEL PLATINI: What we are doing, why, ze significance is obvious.

SEPP BLATTER: We’re like John Wayne in the closing scenes of Hondo.

MICHEL PLATINI: Ze game is a series of imposed semantic conventions zat cease to mean anysing if zey are not constantly renewed by ze application of materio-dialectical engagement!

SEPP BLATTER: I swear on the soul of Byron Leftwich that I have never loved a woman as much as I love the taste of this sweet Kahlua mudslide.

Brian Phillips is offering Surf n’ Turf at very reasonable prices at The Run of Play.

Photo credits: drewesque; artposada; utcathy83; Joits

G14 Disbands: A Victory for Football?

“Victory for football as a whole,” reads the title of UEFA’s triumphalist press release today announcing the elite clubs’ forum the G14 had been disbanded.

Meeting at the Home of FIFA in Zurich, the representatives of the organisations present (cf. list at the end of this media release) agreed on the intention to regulate their future relationship with a number of actions. These are to include the planned evolution of the European Club Forum into the European Club Association (ECA), the formal signature of a memorandum of understanding with UEFA and subsequently the dissolution of the G-14 with the withdrawal of its claims in court. As part of the planned moves, UEFA and FIFA will enter into a series of commitments including financial contributions for player participation in European Championships and World Cups, subject to the approval of their respective bodies.

A new independent club forum, consisting of over 100 clubs from all 53 Uefa member nations, will be formed in its stead. It won’t be controlled by Uefa, but will be recognised by it through a “memorandum of understanding”.

As usual, we mere football fans are not privy to all the details of this, and that’s the fundamental problem with the bizarre claim today’s meeting was somehow a victory for the game as a whole.

The BBC’s Dave Munro illuminated us a little more on the details.

Significantly, the clubs are going to get paid when their players take part in international tournaments. All the details have not yet been sorted out but I understand that it is going to be a daily rate irrespective of whether it is £100,000-a-week or £1,000-a-week.

FIFA boss Sepp Blatter, never one to miss out on the chance to get his name on a press release, chimed in with the absurd hyperbole that “Something very special has happened today. The clubs, which are the basic cells of our game and fundamental to its thriving, are at last to become a part of the pyramidal football organisation.”

I actually thought players and supporters were the basic cells, not the greedy and self-serving list of participants at the meeting, including Blatter himself, his mendacious deputy Jerome Valcke, Manchester United’s David Gill, and interestingly — given they’re not even in the G-14 — Chelsea’s Peter Kenyon.

Sepp Blatter and Michel PlatiniAt the Fanhouse, Dave Warner calls the dissolution of the G-14 a win for Michel Platini. He is, I think, correct in the sense that the result fits his gameplan perfectly: as I’ve written previously, some of his more unlikely suggestions in the negotiations over the Champions League places were clearly pawns he could give up in a future compromise with the G-14 to fulfill his promises to central and eastern European clubs.

Brian at the Run of Play also seems to concur, saying that “this looks like a colossal victory for Blatter and Platini against the power of the big European clubs. The threat of a breakaway superleague appears to have expired, gently, in its sleep, and the lawsuits that the G-14 had arrayed around FIFA will pack up their things and go home.”

While that’s true, I’ve long believed that the superleague threat was a bluff the G-14′s just been using to extract more out of Uefa over the past decade, most of which they’ve now got. There isn’t really much else they need, with the final contentious issue on international compensation settled. The superleague simply isn’t realistic: you don’t walk away from the huge television contracts and packed stadiums the national leagues and the Champions League are already providing unless there’s a deal sitting on the table guaranteeing — literally — trillions of dollars in future revenue to replace it. And there isn’t such a deal on the horizon, as everyone knows there isn’t much interest among football fans in watching the G-14 clubs play each other to death.

The new forum does reflect a reality that the G-14 would have had to expand further anyway (as it already has and had plans to do), though the new forum does reflect there has been a slight powershift, especially given the growing financial power of certain other European teams outside the original core. Yet we can be sure that whilst each of the 53 nations will be represented, it won’t be composed equally: expect the richest leagues, home to most of the G-14 as it stands, to have the most representatives, and thus the most power.

And all the real dealings will continue to go on behind closed doors, the curious fan left to guess at how the fate of football is actually decided. A “Victory for football as a whole” would only come if the fans’ interests or even those of the clubs lower down in the pyramid Blatter mentions were also considered in these deliberations.

Photo credit: Antoon’s Foobar on Flickr

Platini and G-14 Compromise on the Champions League

We wrote last week that all the machinations over a European Superleague, a rejigged Champions League and the proposed disbanding of the G-14 spoke of a grand compromise in the making between UEFA and the big clubs. Platini needed to keep the constituency that has supported him, the weaker nations, happy by including more of them; the G-14 needed to keep four spots in the tournament reserved for the stronger leagues. Platini’s recent proposal to include cup winners as well was a red herring, designed so both sides could declare victory and save face.

And UEFA is soon expected to confirm that more champions from the weaker leagues will enter the competition; cup winners will not; and the big leagues will keep four spots each (some might say this was a slight win for them, as they now have three automatic entries to the group stage; on the other hand, the fourth entrant will now have to navigate an extra qualifying round).

These quotes from UEFA and a G-14 spokesman speak of a grand compromise.

The cup winners’ inclusion was “a minor point and it has been delayed in a spirit of conciliation,” said UEFA spokesman William Gaillard, adding that the issue could be discussed again in three years.

Gaillard said that the main goal of the reorganization — to give more nations a place in Europe’s premier club competition — had been achieved.

“What president Platini had in his program was the widening of the group stage to more champions from middle-sized nations,” Gaillard said.

UEFA’s executive committee is expected to approve the proposal next month.

The G14 group of powerful European clubs is happy that the cup winners won’t be included.

“We always thought it was not a good idea,” G14 general manager Thomas Kurth said. “Now, we see it will not come through. It is fine by us.”

The G-14, Michel Platini and the Bluff of the European Superleague

Superleagues, ego, politics, diplomacy, money, money, money. The chess battle between UEFA and Europe’s biggest clubs continues to go on, but today, there was a strong indication the endgame is here.

The G-14, the now misnamed grouping of eighteen elite self-selected European clubs, seems likely to extinguish itself soon with a new organisation apparently to be formed. G-14′s General Manager, Thomas Kurth explained to Reuters.

“Let’s be clear this is not an expansion of G14, it is an evolution,” Kurth said, adding that the new group would be called the International Club Organisation.

“If it is formed and it can find a solution to the current problems, then it would make no sense for both G14 and the new group to co-exist,” he said in an interview. “Ideally this will happen some day soon. G14 clubs are the facilitators and are leading the formation of this group but, yes, the clubs may decide there is no more necessity for G14 anymore.”

However, The Digger reports that the postponement of the expansion of the G-14 (announced a couple of months ago) suggests a tacit agreement has been reached with UEFA to resolve their dispute with the dissolution of the G-14 and the formation of a new, broader group approved of by Michel Platini.

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