A worried frown could clearly be seen on the face of Michel Platini as UEFA’s president launched himself into the presentation process after Saturday’s dramatic climax to the 2011-12 Champions League Final in Munich.
Probably Platini was concerned merely to ensure that he had all the medals in the correct order and that the entire process could run smoothly; with all his attendant refereeing assistants plus teams and substitutes and reserves and coaching staff this is not the simple business of yesteryear when ‘only’ 25 medals were needed for two teams, a referee and his two linesmen.
On the other hand Platini might have been reflecting briefly on the way football – in its inimitable way – had played a mischievous trick on his well-aired concept and glittering new regulations for the imposition of Financial Fair Play.
Football is all about initials: FFP is to UEFA at the moment what GLT (goal line technology, of course) is to FIFA. Both are significant and GLT will be easier to implement than FFP, assuming Hawk-Eye and/or GoalRef come successfully through the last phase of testing.
Platini is often portrayed as a critic of English football. Nothing could be further from the truth. He loves its traditions and strengths. But he has major concerns over the club ownership model represented by Sheikh Mansour at Manchester City and Roman Abramovich at Chelsea.
He fears the consequences of the domino effect if any one cash-rich dictator should suddenly walk away from the sport. The pursuit of protective accounting was one of the reasons Platini launched himself in pursuit of FFP in the first place.
He hoped clubs across his European fiefdom would, by now, be preparing to meet its challenges and tidy up the books. Instead, concerns over the impending arrival of FFP have prompted many clubs to find the ready cash to spend as heavily as they can while they are allowed.
Hence, within two weeks, Platini has seen Manchester City win the English Premier League and now Chelsea win the Champions League. His consolation is that his star pupils, Bayern Munich and Arsenal, will at least be in the Champions League next season.
Tottenham Hotspur will not . . . which has infuriated the club’s fans and forced chairman Daniel Levy and manager Harry Redknapp to reassess their approach to the summer transfer window. All of a sudden players who would have been looking forward to expressing their talent on the Champions League stage will be wondering about finding another club with which to do it.
To some extent Spurs have only themselves to blame. Third place in the Premier League was offered to them on a plate and they resolutely turned away. Still, the old insistence – remember the Champions League suspensions issue? – is that rules cannot be changed in an ongoing competition.
Tottenham are not the only club who doubtless believe that non-qualifying holders should be added in further down the Champions League chain, not slipped through in place of someone else.
Belgian champions Anderlecht, expecting to be placed in the group stage, run the risk of early elimination after being pushed down into the third qualifying round, also to make way for Chelsea. This means Les Mauves could play four matches in the preliminaries and never make it to the group stage: more games and significantly reduced income.
The situation has arisen because UEFA made a mess of the issue after Liverpool won the Champions League in 2005 without having qualified for the next season through domestic placing. It took a great deal of pressure to force UEFA, kicking and screaming, into grudging acceptance of their right to defend the crown.
It should be comparatively easy to find a ‘proper’ solution which keeps everyone happy; certainly easier than imposing financial fair play.