How Are You Getting On, Monsieur Platini?

Michel Platini was delighted to listen to his CD of Neil Doncaster media interviews.
Michel Platini was delighted to listen to a CD of Neil Doncaster’s media interviews.
Good Evening.

For The Clumpany’s 150th blog [*insert wild applause/ vitriolic abuse here*], I thought I would take a look back.

The Clumpany was prompted to do this after spotting this old CQN piece which was tweeted by the always-interesting @auldheid.

The article was tweeted following the news that the SFA has backed Michel Platini to become the next President of FIFA.

The CQN piece from 12 March 2012 was written during the calamitous final meltdown of Rangers FC, which had been put into administration in February, and which would only finally ’emerge’ in June, in the back of the hearse marked ‘liquidation’.

The piece pondered the ongoing “crisis”, suggested that the SFA was “overwhelmed” and that Scottish football needed “the oversight only Uefa can provide and its president promised in his Christmas message”.

Platini’s Christmas message of 2011 wasn’t a patch on the Charles Green one of 2012, but it still bears some scrutiny and illustrates the high-minded rhetoric of the would-be FIFA President who…errr… backed having the World Cup in Qatar.

But it also allows us to ponder how these principles played out in Scotland…

The statement can be found here.

Preserving football’s values – Michel Platini

It is amusing to see that it was published on Christmas Day itself. Alongside messages from the Queen, Pope, and Archbishop of Canterbury etc. It really does make you wonder how UEFA sees itself! 

You can read the whole statement – which looks back on the events of 2011 – at your leisure, but here are the key extracts.

“I have always perceived my responsibility as being to protect the game, and 2011 has been a year in which the game has needed particular protection. It has been a year which has underlined the importance of our organisation as one of the guarantors of the values, stability and equity of this sport.

It has been a year in which certain of our national associations have had to take courageous decisions to preserve the justice and integrity of our sport. A year in which we have also had to remain solid and defend our values – sometimes alone – to guarantee the respecting of the rules and the equity of the competitions, and to prevent football becoming a hostage of a few for their own profit and interests. It has been a year in which, unfortunately and at the expense of certain agonies, football has emphasised its need for transparency and governance, aspects which are so important in relation to the respect which is so dear to me.”

Where do you even begin with this?

Any fan of a Scottish club (except Rangers) who witnessed the tumultuous events of 2012 will tell you that their experience was not one steeped in values, stability, equity, justice and integrity.

No. It was an experience of administrators being in panic.

It was an experience of warnings about ‘Armageddon’ and ‘slow lingering death’ if the clubs did not bow to the will of the Scottish authorities and allow Sevco to be gerrymandered into the higher divisions of the league.

It was an experience of the SFL throwing its normal admission processes out of the window and not allowing the likes of Spartans even a sniff of joining the league.

It was an experience of the SFA being party to a secret 5-Way Agreement with the new club. An agreement which might have contained undertakings that may or may not have been breached. And which may or may not leave the new club liable to unknown sanctions.

It was an experience of the SFA creating the hitherto-unknown mechanism of a ‘conditional membership’ to allow Sevco Scotland to take the field against Brechin in the Ramsdens Cup.

It was an experience of a laughably flexible ‘player registration embargo’ being applied to the new club.

It was an experience of the truly remarkable Lord Nimmo Smith Commission finding guilt of systematic rule-breaking. But then concluding that there was ‘no sporting advantage’ on the basis of a very ‘interesting’ interpretation of player registration rules by the SFA, and without having considered the Discounted Options Scheme that preceded the introduction of EBTs.

It was an experience of seeing a mere fine imposed on liquidated Rangers. A fine for which Sevco apparently assumed responsibility, but haven’t yet paid.

It was also an experience of questions remaining unanswered about the awarding of Rangers’ licence to play European football in 2011-12.

It was an experience of seeing a ‘conflicted’ SFA President remaining in office throughout.

In short, it was an experience that was as far removed from M. Platini’s idealistic festive rhetoric as you could possibly imagine!

Where were you UEFA? And where were you, M. Platini?

The issues haven’t gone away. We still await

  • a look at the 5-Way Agreement
  • a revisiting of the Lord Nimmo Smith findings to address some glaring gaps; and
  • a definitive explanation of whether Rangers were properly awarded that 2011-12 European licence.

It is not too late for Mr Platini to be true to his word. 

The narrative around the FIFA Presidential election is all about transparency, reform and integrity. If that really means anything, it ought to apply just as much to national associations as it does to the plush FIFA HQ in Switzerland.

Mr Platini’s 2011 Christmas message also spoke about the introduction of Financial Fair Play (FFP).

“It is also a year in which I hope that we enter a new era in club football, thanks to financial fair play, which is supported and carried forward by everyone, and which is a symbol of our unity and our capacity to assume our responsibilities together when it comes to preserving football”

The subsequent implementation of FFP has not been without it’s hitches but – aside from a hint by Peter Lawwell at the 2014 Celtic AGM that it might be on its way – there has been no sign of a move towards it in Scotland.

Which is pretty remarkable given the liquidation of Rangers after years of living beyond their means, and the numerous other clubs who have been in and out of administration.

Either the clubs have made it clear that they won’t stand for FFP, or the authorities have been dragging their feet.

I know which scenario I think is more likely! But in either case, it really isn’t good enough.

And once again The Clumpany asks where is UEFA? Where is Michel Platini?

There is a delicious irony in reading Platini’s Christmas statement, given what happened in Scotland in 2012, and given that the SFA is now cosying up to him.

It may be that the SFA simply views Platini as the best candidate.

But there there may be politics involved. After all, UEFA members now get to vote on the British Fifa-Vice President, and the SFA may want to get ‘their man’ into the position next time round.

Then again, they may simply be supporting Platini because they think he is going to win! After all, everyone likes to back the winner and be on good terms with them.

But whatever the reason, the Clumpany sincerely hopes that M.Platini will live up to the high-minded principles of 2011, and all the promises of reform that he is going to make over the coming months.

In April 2012 Stewart Regan spoke of the SFA having “a responsibility to all its members and must implement its rules without fear or favour.”

Such notions of fairness, equity and integrity are what The Clumpany would like to see M.Platini put into practice. If he can. 

If the SFA helps him to achieve it, then that’s all to the good.

But I really hope that these principles burst out of FIFA HQ and sweep through national associations around the world.

Especially the one based at Hampden Park.

We have been waiting a long time…