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Europe on verge of soccer meltdown?
by Paul Kennedy, February 19th, 2009 7:01AM



UEFA president Michel Platini issued a dire warning that European soccer was on the verge of a financial meltdown if measures to curb spending on salaries and transfers aren't implemented. Speaking to the European Parliament, the former French star said the sport could "financially implode" if members of the European Club Association, which represents 137 leading teams, don't come around. He pointed out that American sports leagues were better positioned to handle the worldwide financial crisis and European clubs needed to learn from their example.

Platini's comments came after efforts to impose a salary cap was rejected by the European Club Association.

"European clubs are currently telling us that our system is in danger of financially imploding in the medium term," Platini said. "We are currently looking at the idea of limiting, to a certain degree, a club's expenditure on staff -- salary and transfer fees combined -- to an as yet undecided percentage of its direct and indirect sporting revenue."

Platini has proposed that clubs "would not be allowed to spend any more than 50 to 60 per cent of revenues" on wages and buying players -- revenues meaning money received only from ticket sales, sponsorship, merchandise and television income, not from the financial investment by owners or major shareholders.

"For the past 15 or 20 years, we have grown tired of hearing that there is no need to regulate, that the market regulates itself perfectly, that excesses and imbalances will disappear of their own accord," Platini said. "We now know that none of this is true. In football, as in the economy in general, the market is incapable of correcting its own excesses, and it was not the UEFA president who said so, it was Barack Obama."

Platini spoke of the American model where "sports competitions are only attractive if they are well balanced and if no one team possesses the ultimate weapon. The American sports system can certainly give us food for thought. It is completely different from the European model of sport in a number of fundamental ways. There are nevertheless some lessons that we can learn.

Platini's rules would only immediately affect clubs participating in UEFA competitions such as the lucrative Champions League and the UEFA Cup, but they would by definition cover Europe's biggest clubs.

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