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Fifa seeks to dictate the way leagues work; the leagues fight back

By Tony Attwood

It didn’t make much of an impact in the news when he said it, but S Blatter, head of the discredited Fifa, has demanded a reduction of the number of teams playing in the top leagues in some countries including England.

The man who has presided over the massive growth in meaningless international matches announced that, “Domestic championships are too long because there are too many teams and too many matches.”  He added that this is “so players arrive fitter and fresher for events such as the World Cup.”

He has also said that Michel Platini agrees although I haven’t seen a separate comment from the head of Uefa.

The chances of getting such a change through in England is slight, since there needs to be 14 out of 20 teams agreeing to the change to bring down the number to 16 clubs, which is what Fifa want.

But…

There is a story circulating that a number of clubs at the top would like to have more big games of the forthcoming Arsenal/Barca-Bankrupt affair, since these are where the money is.   And we should not at any time forget that for virtually every game Barca fails to sell out its ground.  Which is not good news when it is quite possible that summer 2011 will see a repeat of summer 2010 and another failure to pay the players.

What the top clubs therefore might be looking for are smaller leagues (16 is again the number that is quoted,) but more European league games (rather than more silly internationals).   The way this could be organised is through the application of none too subtle pressure.  If the offer of more Champs League games is on the table but only for leagues that have 16 teams, the top clubs would vote for it.  If blocked, they would then offer to withdraw totally and set up a new league.   The EPL would do anything to keep the top five or six clubs within its remit.

But this then entails the opposite of what Fifa want with international matches. Fifa always wants more – more competitions, more matches, more money.  The clubs universally want less of Fifa’s product and more of their own.

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, chair of the European Club Association, took the debate in what seemed to me the right direction when he said that  clubs pay the wages of players who are left “completely empty” by the insane demands of Fifa.  For me Bendtner is a perfect example here.  Had he been able to rest through the summer I doubt that he would have had further injury problems which have kept him on the sidelines either injured or out of form until now.  Nasri shows the other side.  No summer excursion to South Africa, and look at him now.

The clubs in the 197-member Euro Club Assn will meet shortly to formulate a strategy for influencing Fifa’s international schedule, which currently runs until 2014.  They will also consider current Fifa rules that say that clubs must release players who are required.

This year the Fifa timetable includes not only the group matches but also and insanely three friendly matches (February, June and August).   Then there is the Asian Cup (Qatar) the Concacaf Gold Cup (USA) the Copa America (July) and (I seem to remember) a plan to play the Africa Cup of Nations two years running.

I suspect it is this upcoming fight that has forced Fifa to back off its idea of moving the 2022 world cup to the winter; Fifa is trying to win one battle at a time.

Personally I would love a smaller EPL plus a bigger Champs League.  It is the size of the EPL that leads to all the ultra negative games.  For every Blackpool who will play attacking football no matter what, there are two teams that will just defend and defend.

Meanwhile on another issue, I am so glad that the BBC’s insane instructions to its presenters to mention continuously Arsenal’s five years without a trophy, while failing to mention other nice facts like the length of time since other teams have won a trophy.   On one commentary the BBC did the years since a trophy thing about 10 times in 90 minutes.  (It was as if they had listened to Ian Wright and took it as a way to do journalism rather than a dire warning about how to get people to switch off).

I’m told one blog did actually list the length of time since all the other EPL clubs have won something – sadly I didn’t write down which blog that was, but if you know, do tell.   I seem to remember that for Tottenham it is 50 years since winning the league, and for Liverpool it is 21.

I still seem to be floating after a nice feeling on Tuesday night – but am working on a special piece of Herbert Chapman at Huddersfield for the Arsenal History site.  It will appear shortly.

Making the Arsenal

19 comments to Fifa seeks to dictate the way leagues work; the leagues fight back

  • rishgoon

    Well said as usual Tony. Andy Gray even craps on about the ‘5 years since’ on the FIFA 11 video game. He won’t be missed on the Xbox either… and not to correct you but I think you’ll find the Africa Cup of Nations has been every two years for some time.

  • Byo

    The power of FIFA I think has to be curtailed. The negative effects on clubs and players you very well documented. And who really cares about friendly international matches? The proper international contests make sense and I do watch diligently. It is high time the clubs stand up to FIFA, but I don’t know how they do this.
    I see your point in more CL games, but it should not be done by reducing the number of clubs in the top flights of the national leagues. Yes, there are teams that play boring football in every PL, but you see that in the CL also. I do like the recent changes introduced by Platini though. It will start to provide the smaller clubs revenue to compete better in the CL.

  • Rishgoon – what I meant to say about the Africa cup is that instead of it being every two years they are going to play three cups in four years. But I can’t lay my hands on the notice that said that, so I might be wrong on that one.

  • Paul C.

    The clubs should simply say “well, if you want to decrease our games, where players are actually paid, and increase the number of international games, where players dont get paid, then we will also decrease all the players wages accordingly. So if there is a reduction of 4 games from 38 to 34 (over 10%) then we will also decrease player wages by over 10% at the same time to account for lost match revenue. Let’s see what the players would make of that one. I wonder if there might be some players who suddenly started to say “bollox to international football and giving my services for free”.

    When are FIFA going to realise that without club football they have absolutely nothing, and not the other way around?

  • shakabulagooner

    Tony:
    Nasri and Walcott were fresher from having a proper holiday between the seasons. So, it makes the firm point that no matter what, all players ought to get proper rest between seasons.

    This objective will be defeated irrespective of what is used to choke up the schedule: whether it is FIFA approved Continental Cups or an expanded playing format between the big European clubs.

    I support that the big Europeans clubs should force a show-down with FIFA but I think one of the aims should be that all players get reasonable periods of rest between seasons even in World Cup, European cup or African cup years.

    The games, the clubs, UEFA and FIFA will all be better off if the players’ fitness and rest are properly taken into account. Otherwise, someday, we may be talking about “players’ revolt” – in much the same way as we are now talking about clubs’ revolt.

  • IndianGooner

    Tony is right about the African Cup of Nations. It was last played 2010. The next edition is in 2012, the next is 2013 and then every 2 years: 2015, 2017, 2019. The cup is being brought a year earlier so as not to not coincide with the WC years..

  • IndianGooner

    Tony is right about the African Cup of Nations. It was last played 2010. The next edition is in 2012, the next is 2013 and then onwards every 2 years: 2015, 2017, 2019. The cup is being brought a year earlier so as not to not coincide with the WC years.

  • kiwigooner

    This is a thin edge of the wedge.
    By all means reduce EPL, increase CL.
    Eventually you will have all CL and no EPL….
    I can think of many big big clubs that would be delighted for that to occur, I don’t see the fans complaining either.

  • Paul C.

    Kiwi – certainly the fans of the big clubs in the CL already wouldnt mind more CL at the expense of the EPL, but what about the fans of all the other clubs? As Arsenal fans we often forget just how spoiled we are every single season getting to see our team compete in the biggest competitions. I am personally a huge fan of a European Super League but I often wonder whether I would be so keen on it if I was an Aston Villa or Everton fan for instance (two traditionally “big” clubs that would be on the outside looking in if a Euro League was formed).

  • Dark Prince

    To be honest, we have too many fixtures. I’m not just talkin about EPL, i’m also talkin about the carling cup, the fa cup and the champions league. And add to that the international friendlies and it becomes a hectic year. Having 2 matches in a weak is definately hectic if it happens for 4-5 consecutive weeks. Maybe fifa has a point but reducing the number of teams is not a good idea.

  • what about taking down the carling cup for CL and lower leagues, that would give some rest to EPL teams, Spain and Italy for instance have no league cups, surely, teams who son’t play for european cups will not like it but who cares, we are the Arsenal

  • Wrenny

    Strange that they would want to increase the number of CL games when it wasn’t that long ago that they decreased them! Taking away the second group stage took away 4 matches from the competition (from 17 to 13 for a club which makes the final).

    The most obvious way to reduce the schedule is, of course, cutting away the pointless international friendlies. Everybody hates them! The football is always poor and the players unmotivated.

  • Mick

    Would it be feasible to exempt clubs playing in European competition from the Carling Cup. It would help cut down the number of games for most of the bigger, more successful clubs and increase the chances of silverware for supporters of less successful clubs.

  • Jas777

    If you look at all the extra international friendlies and all the various international cups you can see they have been added to keep the people who vote for Blatter every election happy.

  • RedGooner

    To be honest not only is there to many teams in EPL there are also to many teams in all the lower divisions.
    I think they could easily make 4 half decent leagues with the number of teams in the top 3 divisions.
    Running the African Cup 2 years in a row is a joke also if FIFA werent about just money they would have left it go 3 years but what do they care if players get injured.

    16 teams a winter break time for the friendlies scheduled in would make more sense the economics of it all though would never work.
    Way to much corruption in football Fifa and the Referees are a joke.

  • Sammy The Snake

    Don’t cut the Carling Cup for now… We’re winning it this year! But in the long run, there’s one too many cups in England.

    Fifa’s decision to sell 2022 WC to Qatar is just laughable. In Arab countries, there is no culture of attending football matches, and everyone watches on TV. That why the stadiums in the current Asian Cup is usually less than 50% filled. Except the opening game, and perhaps tomorrow’s final, all stadiums with capacities around 25,000 are mostly empty. How they’ll fill 80,000 stadiums is beyond me. This will ultimately kill off the charm of WC in the long run.

  • Rhys Jaggar

    I am floating in a nice feeling after Tuesday evening too, Mr Attwood – I backed Arsenal and Andy Murray to win and both obliged rather nicely.

    Andy Murray obliged me again this morning and one wonders whether another Murray-Arsenal double should be backed on Sunday?

    Hopefully, when considering what a fine craftsman he is at his chosen sport, you will not hold against him the fact that he:
    a. Supports Glasgow Rangers; and
    b. Takes advice from Scotsmen occasionally.

    I guess it is too short notice for Arsenal to open up Club Deck at 8.30am for supporters to watch the final on HD screens in a nice warm place??!!

  • Gooner Gal

    Andy Murray is actually Hibernian fan, but I saw him at an Arsenal match last year so I think he might like us too.

    Tony – this is a really interesting article but I must say its a big leap to say that if the league was smaller, it would be filled with better teams. I think it would be the opposite as more teams would be desparate to stay up by any means necessary. Ultimately it depends on the managers of these teams. Under a manager like Rijkaard, Man City would play expansive and exciting football as they have capable players and would pose a bigger threat to us. Instead they are ultra defensive and quite physical.
    .
    Anyway Tony, it does sound like from what you are saying FIFA are really trying to assert their authority over the leagues which are becoming very powerful in their own right. A lot of money is flowing into the Premier League & La Liga respectively, which has got FIFA’s attention. I would love the clubs to flex their muscles and challenge FIFA because international football have become a pain istead of a joy.
    .
    Everytime I hear Cappello or Pearce mention an Arsenal player I feel like screaming. Firstly Cappello doesn’t have the ability to manage the new generation of England footballers so I would rather he stuck with Aaron lemming and Garth Barry. We are still on course to win the quadruple and don’t need Theo to get injured again for a meaningless game and secondly I can’t understand why Capello is talking up lil’jack so much to the media, they should give the lad a chance to find his feet in the national side without all the pressure. They have learned nothing from the Theo scandal.
    .
    I reckon that the FA are using Arsenal stars to sell the game to the masses and generate revenue. Lampard, Terry and Ferdinand probably will rule themselves out for this one, so the FA only have Rooney and Gerard as big names to sell the game otherwise. The whole thing makes me sick. International friendlies make me sick. FIFA make me sick….the Chinese I ate an hour ago is also leaving me feeling a bit sick..

    If I had to choose, I would say that I would much rather watch an Arsenal Carling Cup match over an England match and to be honest I think I enjoyed the Emirates cup more than watching the England team embarassment at the last World Cup.

  • first time here and I just wanted to stop by and say hi there everyone!