The UEFA boss opts for four more years at UEFA…
Will he or won’t he? Answer: he won’t and he will. The “he” in this happy political puzzle is Michel Platini, who will stand again for the presidency of UEFA – and that has given him a convincing reason why he will not be standing against Sepp Blatter, also next year, for the leadership of FIFA.
The timeline for settling the identities of the two men who will lead the European and world game between 2011 and 2015 is clear, with UEFA voting first in May next year, followed by FIFA.
To start with FIFA. Until the latter stages of last year it had appeared likely that Blatter, in power since 1998, would not be opposed. Then Asian confederation president Mohamed Bin Hammam (Blatter’s backer in 1998) complained in public that Blatter had outstayed his welcome. Bin Hammam even suggested FIFA presidents serve a maximum of two terms, a move that was defeated by 15 votes to five with one abstention. No surprise that the vote was lost; instead the surprise was that Bin Hammam felt emboldened enough to take it to the table.
Bin Hammam nearly lost his seat in Asian elections last year and has moved to heal a rift with the Far East by forming an alliance with South Korea’s Chung Mong-joon, once a bitter critic. Neither can command majority support throughout the world – indeed, neither can command unanimity within Asia – and they considered trying to persuade Platini to run against Blatter.
This was one of the considerations in Platini’s mind as he approached UEFA’s recent congress in Tel Aviv; one other consideration was whether he wanted to shoulder the responsibility for a further four years.
In the event, Platini decided that his pet projects within the European game were not far enough progressed for him to step out. Hence the need to maintain working momentum on financial fair play, the anti-corruption drive, returning power to the middle nations, goal-line assistants and outlawing the transfer of minors.
Platini, 54, who became UEFA’s sixth president when he ousted Sweden’s veteran Lennart Johansson in 2007, told congress: “I am a happy man, a happy president and happy to work with you. There is more work to do so I am happy to announce to you that I am a candidate for re-election.
“Many people have asked me, will I stay at UEFA, will I go to FIFA, will I go to Juventus, will I be a senator, or become a member of parliament?
“Now I have a year to prepare my programme for the next four years. At least nowadays no one describes me as the man who takes free-kicks.”
Blatter, as he freely acknowledges, does not see eye-to-eye with Platini on everything. One area of dispute is how best to circumvent European Union employment law as it affects club use of foreign players. FIFA wants to use the Treaty of Lisbon lever to impose six-and-five, while UEFA believes in the more subtle imposition of home-grown players in a registered squad.
Otherwise FIFA and UEFA now work together on governance issues more closely than at any time in their history. That happy arrangement will continue now Blatter has confirmation that Platini is no threat.
Of course, Platini may stand for FIFA president in 2015. He would be around the right age, at 59, but the 24/7 demand of the FIFA job would surely not appeal. In any case, Bin Hammam and Chung might have found a new candidate by then – assuming there isn’t a two-term rule for executive members by then.