Michel Platini was one of the most popular visitors to have addressed the Council of Europe when he attended Strasbourg earlier this week to urge the continent’s politicians to commit themselves to the international fight against sports corruption.
But Platini has other reasons for bringing European parliamentarians onside.
UEFA, under Platini’s presidential predecessor Lennart Johansson, had invested significant amounts of time and money in lobbying for a clause acknowledging the specificity of sport in the European Union’s Treaty of Lisbon.
The over-optimistic idea was that the EU and its executive arm, the European Commission, would then leave sport alone to run its business in a vacuum, free of all the legal and administrative conventions of employment and other laws which pertain to every other sphere of professional life.
That was time and money wasted. The clause was approved but with the opposite effect to the one desired by UEFA. Its existence merely pulled sport deeper within the pan-European legislative embrace.
However, this also has positive nuances, as Platini is now appreciating. Treaty recognition means sport can demand of Europe’s authorities all possible co-operation and support over issues such as match fixing and online betting scams.
Platini also has a co-operative rather than antagonistic platform from which to seek a sympathetic hearing over fast-approaching court actions.
One of those was proceeding while he was making his impassioned appeal for anti-corruption support to the Council of Europe. Back in Switzerland Sion were winning their one case against the Swiss football federation in the civil court in Martigny and were setting out much the same case, against the Swiss league, before the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
CAS will deliver its own verdict next Monday. Whichever way it goes will not be the end of the matter.
Setting that aside, for the moment, Platini has another looming court clash in mind.
This concerns the imposition on the club game of Financial FairPlay. He believes legal challenges are inevitable and has appealed to Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, for political support.
Platini believes that Financial Fair Play is fundamental in proving that professional football is heading for a new era of commercial responsibility and must not be impeded.
He will need all the arms of the law on his side for that one.
By Keir Radnedge