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By Tony Attwood
The Telegraph has awoken to the issue of the dangers of the monopolistic positions of Uefa and Fifa. Clubs and countries are subservient to both, and each claims to be supreme and unchallengeable. And just in case anyone gets a bit uppity about this, Nasser Al-Khelaïfi is Chairman and CEO of Paris Saint-Germain AND chairman of beIN Media Group, and QSI and Digiturk. He is also a member of UEFA’s Executive Committee and is the Chairman of the European Club Association. So a nice sharing out of power.
And now Nasser Al-Khelaïfi has told clubs across Europe that they are prohibited (yes PROHIBITED) from joining the Union of European Clubs (UEC) – which has recruited clubs that feel disenfranchised by Uefa and the ECA.
But clubs are not taking this lying down. Aston Villa, Brentford, Crystal Palace and Brighton and Hove have all rebelled. Shakhtar Donetsk has also stated its belief in the need for an organisation that is specifically not run by Nasser Al-Khelaïfi to give a free voice to clubs.
Thus the ECA could potentially be a lobby group for challenging Uefa while on the other side sit Al-Khelaifi with his media empire and Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin.
But in fact most of football sees the ECA as being in the pocket of Uefa, because what the clubs want is participation in European competitions and decision-making. But power rests with the 16 founder members who are permanently on the football equivalent of the UN Security Council. Three of these are from Britain: Manchester United, Chelsea and Rangers.
As we have so often seen, those at the top of football keep their positions at the top and insist that other clubs cannot join other groups, in order to avoid “fragmentation” which would “undermine the strength of collective action” and “not serve the best interests” of clubs. It is a bit like saying, if you want to join a trades union it has to be this one – no other is acceptable.
That single body then goes on to negotiate with Uefa and Fifa the share of the money for club competitions. As a result, the top clubs, like Fifa and Uefa become self-perpetuating, rather like the FA in terms of English football. It doesn’t matter how incompetent or inept or even corrupt any of those bodies becomes, they have the power and no one can challenge them.
Except that the smaller clubs really are getting rather fed up. As the chief executive of Lokomotiva Zagreb is reported as saying, the current unchallenged system means that “Uefa has distributed €22 billion in prize money in the last 25 years and €7 billion [around one third] of that has gone to just 12 clubs.” We might add that three quarters of all the money has gone to just 50 clubs. So the rich perpetuate themselves.
Now of course Arsenal are one of the richest clubs, but that doesn’t mean that just because I support Arsenal, I would agree with this self-perpetuating hierarchy.
More than anything I most certainly would agree that the clubs that are not ECA members should be able to organise themselves, not least because the ECA is saying that it demands the right to be the only representative body of clubs in Europe.
Fifa are of course not worried. Why should they be? Each competition they put on is mired in corruption and controversy while the broadcasters lap up their offerings and do nothing to expose the corruption as they plough more and more money into Fifa and Uefa and just claim that everything is fine.
Thus the policy of Fifa is simple: just keep rolling on. The world is so in love with world football that each scandal can be swept aside by the excitement of the next and the next and the next tournament.
Of course, Fifa and Uefa are not helped by their own staggeringly gross incompetence (just think of the Champions League finals or Euro 2020), and of course, the rumbling is continuing concerning the World Cup
Indeed corruption investigations are still ongoing concerning the way Qatar won the bid, and while sport in England keeps out of any international challenges as it wants to bid for the finals, the French legal system is proving itself much more robust in terms of Qatar. This week the house of Nasser Al-Khelaifi, was searched. Potential charges of kidnapping, extortion and torture by organized banditry are being spoken of. (To be clear Untold has seen no evidence of this – we are just reporting what the European media is saying, and what the UK media always ignores as it continues to bend the knee of Uefa and Fifa on a daily basis).
And this is not tittle-tattle from unheard of foreign newspapers. Le Monde (the French newspaper available throughout Europe and easily the most famous French daily) is writing about the alleged kidnapping of a lobbyist in Qatar who claims he was tortured in the emirate in 2020 for six months. He was following up on the issue of “offers from Qatar broadcaster BeIn Media to broadcast future tournaments.”
So we now know that law firms representing organizations and individuals who are challenging Fifa and Uefa have been searched. We also have the claim that Qatar has bribed eight Ecuadorian players $7.4 million to lose the opener of the world cup.
You won’t hear about it much in the UK but Europe is awash with this story. Thank goodness there is some integrity somewhere.
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