Morals and Quarrels

Another column in another publication on corruption in Fifa may be nothing more than an encouragement to turn the page, but there’s the rub: this may not be a column on corruption in Fifa.

4 September 2012 Michael Long

Another column in another publication on corruption in Fifa may be nothing more than an encouragement to turn the page, but there’s the rub: this may not be a column on corruption in Fifa. That, though, is certainly how Karl-Heinz Rummenigge would present it. “Sepp Blatter is saying that he is cleaning up but the fact that no one believes him tells you everything you need to know,” said the two-time European footballer of the year, now president of Bayern Munich, to the Guardian at the end of July. “I’m not optimistic because they believe the system is working perfectly as it is. It’s a money machine, World Cup after World Cup. And for them, that’s more important than serious and clean governance.” Rummenigge, the chairman of the European Clubs’ Association (ECA), hit out at the people running the world’s most popular game as “not serious and clean”, insisting that the time for intervention had come because “knowing something is wrong is an obligation to change.” Complaining that the world’s national associations would never tackle the problems in the world’s governing body, he demanded representation for clubs, players, referees and the women’s game in the upper echelons of the sport’s governing body, adding that he was “ready for a revolution if that’s the only way to come to a solution.” Fiery stuff, but how much of it was aimed at moral reforms was the subject of immediate debate. Certainly, the world’s leading clubs have their issues with the world’s governing body, but they extend far beyond    /$   *   ]=  Cup grates on the clubs that train and develop players and, more importantly, pay their wages – which reach a new record level every year – but must release them on demand for national service and the increased fatigue and risk of injury that come with it. Fifa, which points to the investment it makes in youth and women’s tournaments balanced against the World Cup, its only genuine source of income,             US$600 million over the last four years, taking its reserves well past the billion-dollar mark. Little comes back in the direction of the clubs. Of course, Rummenigge and Blatter have clashed before, not least on the calendar. That is unsurprising when you consider their diametrically opposed viewpoints: Blatter has long been an advocate of reducing the number of games played by clubs for           ^ Rummenigge prefers to point out – as he did again amidst his complaints about corruption – that his European Championship medal with West Germany came after winning a competition with eight teams in 1980, while Euro 2016, to be played in France, will feature 24. And while the fact that Rummenigge chose to mention the European Championship rather than the World Cup may simply be down to its place in his fondest memories, the fact that it is organised by Uefa – as two of the three most commercially successful tournaments in world soccer are – should not go unnoticed. The other one of those tournaments, the Uefa Champions League, is the  *         Rummenigge’s revolution. The memorandum of understanding that gives European soccer its current shape expires in 2014. Talk of a breakaway European Superleague is never *  *_    negotiating table throughout the explosion in European football rights over the last two decades. A revolution that can be presented as *<   €    could not ask for a better bargaining chip, whether they believe in the argument or not. End of an era At the start of August, just days after Mark Cavendish crossed the line in Paris to         the Champs-Élysées, the world of cycling said goodbye to his team. HTC-Highroad,   |         * Bob Stapleton, had been the most successful team in the sport in each of the last four years. Much could be written about their success on the road, but they also drew praise off it, from the no-tolerance approach to doping led by the ever-impressive Stapleton to the clever activation of a number of sponsorships, including team interviews conducted over Skype and riders being tracked on Google Maps. But sponsorship – or an over-reliance on it – has also been the team’s downfall. In that they are a microcosm of the professional cycling circuit. The reliance of teams on their title sponsors, who essentially fund a budget running up to and beyond €15 million, means that even the best can  _/$   * lends itself to long-term strategic planning. The commercial side of cycling is covered in greater depth elsewhere in this issue – all that remains to be said here is that the HTCHighroad train in full formation was one of the most spectacular sights in sport, and that it will be greatly missed. 12 2011 09 James Emmett {filedir_26}SportsProMag_issue36_12.pdf [26377] [sportspro_september_2011] SportsPro September 2011