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Vive la EU!

By: Todd Bontoft
Date: 11/09/2000

FIFA general secretary Michel Zen-Ruffinen has predicted "the end of football", following the 'lost' Perugia case on the transfer system that went before the European Court, and the European Union's subsequent intention to bring football to task over its method of buying and selling players.

What planet is he living on?

We will survive and probably be better for it!

The end of the transfer system can only be good for football - forcing it to stop treating players like lumps of meat and sorting out an often-corrupt financial system where transfer fees spiral ever upwards and agents and hangers-on pocket millions whilst unsettling players along the way. Is it right that technically bankrupt clubs such as Real Madrid can offer obscene sums for players they cannot afford?

European football is a multibillion-pound business and as such it needs to be regulated. Those in the game that have transformed it from simply a sport into a conglomerate of PLC's have only themselves to blame for attracting Brussel's attention.

It's therefore inevitable that there will be an end to transfer fees and no quota arrangements for overseas players. At least with the latter Lennie Lawrence can sleep easy. His attempts this week to trial some continentals will not be in vain.

The 'Perugia case' is based around the Italian side's initial refusal to pay for a new signing even though the player was still under contract to another European club.

Although FIFA ordered Perugia to pay out, the case alerted EU officials who feel the current transfer regulations infringe the employment law that is enshrined within the Treaty of Rome. Something this country signed up to donkey's years ago when we joined the common market.

Sorry xenophobes - no conspiracy there then!

Ignoring the xenophobes that seize upon anything they can to rubbish the European Union, the strongest criticisms are coming from the bigger clubs.

They argue that smaller clubs will lose out, threatening extinction for many. But the logic is flawed as it compares removing the transfer fee regime and still assuming everything else will remain the same.

In any case, anything that wipes millions off the 'assets' of Chelsea, Moan Utd and the rest cannot be all bad. But seriously, the shallowness and two-faced concern for the lower divisions by the Premiership bosses is laughable, if it wasn't so sick.

Since when did they care about the likes of Grimsby, Hull, Lincoln and Scunthorpe? The reason for setting up the Premiership in the first place was to direct more money to them and less to the smaller clubs. Defence such as theirs we can do without.

They claim that there will no longer be any point in developing home-grown talent as it will become uneconomic. Well that's a good argument to put forward if you wish to be viewed as a sport and not a business! The idea that it's not worthwhile to give anything back to the grass roots unless you're on the make even startles cynical old me.

My very brief time playing for Grimsby Town Boys - it was short and sweet - will remain with me forever and only encouraged me to be the supporter I am today.

The answer is excruciatingly simple.

Simply redistribute in a more equitable way the money the game receives through TV, and sponsorship thereby allowing clubs the resources needed to keep nourishing home-grown talent. Somehow, I think we get back to self-interest and I cannot see the Premiership chairmen genuinely helping the smaller clubs they are now conveniently so concerned about.

Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, along with the Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore, have led the charge and set the media agenda that it's all doom and gloom.

It's not even beyond the wit of the Arsenal's manager, who inexplicably called for a player strike, to see that all of the youth academies can be saved by ring-fencing a proportion of the game's wealth to be spent on this alone.

You can see Wenger's point though. He bought Nicholas Anelka to Arsenal from Paris Saint German for £500,000 and sold him two years later for a profit of £22.5 million. PSG, incidentally, got nothing for developing Anelka. So is someone who so ruthlessly exploits the transfer market to the detriment of others the best person to give independent and impartial comment?

The other crazy notion is that somehow the 'selling clubs', who sell several of their finest talent each year to stay in business, will without transfer fees go bust. Firstly, glancing at the squads of Premiership teams shows that most new players have come from overseas, British players and their wages are simply too dear.

The article continues in Part 2.

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