“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.
At 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