Keir RadnedgeMichel Platini sees Sepp Blatter as a “wounded” president of FIFA but has promised to help him try to rebuild the world federation’s credibility during his remaining three years in office in Zurich.

The 56-year-old Frenchman – 19 years Blatter’s junior – insisted that this was his chosen course of action in his latest media round, timed along with the European federation’s recent executive meeting.

That timing – for interviews with the likes of Le Monde and the Daily Telegraph – made sense for convenience sake but taking out headlines and projections underlined a strand of strategy in establishing UEFA as a body seeking ‘serious’ consideration by the European political institutions.

Platini has made no secret of the importance he places in reaching out to the European Union and the European Commission to bring them onside in the sport’s fight against corruption.

For too long UEFA, under Platini’s presidential predecessor Lennart Johansson, had pretended that European law had nothing to do with the way football ran its show. That was why, in the end, FIFA stepped in to help bring a pragmatic conclusion to the Bosman farrago in the mid-1990s.

Now all that has changed. FIFA, UEFA and the International Olympic Committee have all woken up to the reality that confronting criminal assaults on the credibility of sport in general and football in particular demands powers which only legislators possess.

This is another reason why it is crucial that FIFA finds a route through its scandal-encrusted recent past. The perception that FIFA is taking redemptive action is important not only for itself and the game but also, by association, of UEFA and European football.

Hence Platini’s support for Blatter albeit as the sands of reforming time start to run out on the latter.

Blatter’s recent comment that Platini would make a good next president of FIFA is a distraction which the former captain of France could probably have done without.

He said: “I do not know about this. For one thing, the election is three years away and Blatter will finish his present term. What is important for me is to be able to help him leave through the front door and that, at that time, the football world is a better place.”

Refuting accusations of corruption against Blatter, Platini added: “All the recent business does not involve him. He isn’t guilty of corruption. There has been, perhaps, an issue of running world football and FIFA which is out-of-date. It’s an issue of structure and organisation. Sepp is trying to change the system and change the people but it’s complicated. I give him full credict for trying to do this and I will try to help him because he is wounded.”

The main message Platini wants to keep hammering home is his personal sense of alarm over the level of club debts and the need to take effective action with the introduction of Financial Fair Play.

He said: “It is obvious that if the rules that apply to other commercial enterprises applied to football long ago that football would have gone bankrupt. Clubs have always lived above the law and their debts because they were allowed to do so. Now they know there are rules that must be respected – and they could be punished from 2013.

“These sanctions could range from a prohibition of transfers to exclusion from the Champions League.”

Achieving that would not, of course, do his own credibility any harm.

By Keir Radnedge

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