By John Stewart
UEFA President Michel Platini today told sports ministers that football’s European governing body needs the power to introduce rules on the finances for clubs in European competitions.
Speaking in Biarritz, France, Platini said that UEFA had no intention of interfering with rules for European domestic leagues but wants to ensure “financial fair play” in UEFA’s own competitions, such as the Champion’s League and the UEFA Cup.
Platini said: “What UEFA can do – and we are thinking seriously about doing it – is to reinforce and improve our system for granting licences for our own club competitions.
“It is in this way that we wish to contribute to financial fair play, and start responding to the expectations of the various parties involved in our sport.”
He added: “Fiscal rules in Europe are extremely diverse…and the systems of licensing, control and financial management of football clubs involve a myriad of concepts and different regulations.
If this move was agreed it could eventually mean that English Premier League clubs Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool, who regularly qualify for the Champion’s League, must satisfy UEFA regulations on debts and even much they spend on wages.
Platini also called for a halt on the trafficking of young footballers across Europe and a ban on international transfers of players under the age of 18.
“Today, in the world and in Europe, there is trafficking of children. I will not mince my words because the situation is serious.
“What else do you call a phenomenon whereby children aged 12 or 13 are torn away from their environment and culture to join a business in return for payment? This is what is happening in football.
“Together with FIFA, we are studying remedies, but measures can already be taken to ban the international transfer of minors, even within the European Union.
“In numerous European states, strict rules exist which prevent clubs – on threat of sporting sanctions – poaching [young players] from their rivals’ training centres. However, these rules do not exist at European Union level.
“It is in this context that we would like to be able to ban international transfers of players under the age of 18 within the EU.
“This is not to create an obstacle to the free movement of labour – it is an urgent matter relating to helping youngsters in danger.”
British Sports Minister, Gerry Sutcliffe, who was in Biarritz to hear Platini’s speech, strongly opposes Platini’s propositions, as does the Premier League, presumably with the belief that such sanctions could harm their club’s successes in Europe and, for teams like Arsenal, in particular, who are renowned for nurturing young foreign players into top class performers, preventing them from bringing future stars to England.
However, such a move could prove beneficial to clubs in smaller, less financially viable domestic leagues, such as the SPL’s Celtic and Rangers.