By Paul Nicholson
April 27 – “This is a true revolution. This is do or die now. If they don’t chop their heads off they will become victims again within a few years time.” Emanuel Macedo de Medeiros, former European Leagues boss and head of global integrity group SIGA is unequivocal in his assessment of what needs to be done next following the collapse of the European Super League.
Speaking to Insideworldfootball in the aftermath of what was one of the most cataclysmic weeks in the politics and powerplays of European football says that what happens presents a “unique opportunity to redefine European football” and move away from the days of the ‘gun on the table’ negotiations with Europe’s super wealthy clubs.
Macedo de Medeiros is well placed to comment but even he was stunned by the latest move by the world’s wealthiest club owners to carve out more of football’s money for themselves.
“I can’t distance myself from what I have been for 25 years and that is a football executive and especially my role with the leagues and my role in every discussion regarding this very same topic since the beginning of the Champions League and the conflicts with the G14. Negotiations that were always under tension, always with UEFA being taken as a hostage by the big clubs.”
Understanding that this is a watershed moment for European club football is important, says Macedo de Medeiros.
“The first conclusion is that we can’t leave matters unaddressed. What happened was too great too serious to be ignore. You can’t move to the day after without addressing what happened because consequences must be assumed,” he said.
“There is already one fact that emerged here and this is the role is that UEFA and its president have been operating in the most dramatic crisis football ever in world football. Clubs have never gone this far before to publicly present a breakaway league, and they have done it unashamedly in a time of global crisis and financial recession. This is unprecedented. The clubs and their owners have shown their true nature, they have shown their greed, their arrogance their unsatiable thirst for more and more financial doping.”
The way UEFA responded was crucial. What was at stake was not just the future of the Champions League but of UEFA itself. And while Macedo de Medeiros recognises that some owners have been quick to apologise he is adamant that “this is not enough”.
“If action had been soft it would undermined credibility, undermined the prestige and respect UEFA has earned from all of us,” said Macedo de Medeiros.
“Things have changed dramatically. European football has been released from a state of captivity that is has been locked in since G14 appeared on the European scene. When it was taken hostage by big clubs every four years. This time and using an expression UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin used, the Dirty Dozen went too far and in 48 hours that ambition crashed and burned. But there must be consequences.”
Reforms are long overdue
“This is a unique opportunity to redfine not just power in football but long overdue reforms, to address problems related to the integrity of the game with transparency and accountability that is owed to every fan, to every sponsor to every broadcaster and everyone in the industry.”
Macedo de Medeiros is saying this is an opportunity that to start desperately needed root and branch reform in elite football.
He says that reform must look at “club ownership and related investment, (ownership) vehicles and transactions, player transfers, player agents, and match-fixing are a number of important threats that have been exposed but whose solutions never been implemented because of a lack of political courage.”
His demand is wider ranging than safeguarding UEFA competitions and revenues. “(The reform is) not only to find changes to the format of the Champions League, the access list, the revenue distribution model, but this structural problem must be addressed so that the fans who have expressed themselves in a way that has never happened before can find reasons to trust the clubs and those who run them, and the institutions.
“This is what has changed dramatically and those who don’t understand it are missing the big picture here,” said Macedo de Medeiros.
To achieve the bigger picture he advocates a global approach and says that a more concerted effort with everyone having a role to play is what is required.
“Sport has governance autonomy but that implies responsibility, integrity, transparency and accountability which means also the engagement of government and all football stakeholders – not just governing bodies… but beyond that matters of public order, government and law enforcement and of course independent scrutiny and oversight. This is why SIGA exists, to provide a global approach and concrete solutions to real problems. We must accept the hard questions. Who is against or afraid of independent scrutiny and oversight?
“Do they want to see fans express themselves in more eloquent ways in the street again, do they want to see sponsors turn their backs and broadcasters doing the same. This is not a smooth transition this is a true revolution we are witnessing sparked by the terrorism of a dozen clubs. This is the moment to create a new order and to usher sport (not just football) into a new era of enhanced governance and enhanced integrity.”
Money is not the play
Macedo de Medeiros argues that there is more at stake than money and selfish interests. “Something we must all learn from the pandemic is that we need to put values at the top and one of those values is integrity and solidarity. So things have to change and leadership comes with example,” he said.
One sector from where he sees intervention as now being essential is government, particularly in the area of financial transactions. While he says they are always quick to talk about sport and its responsibilities, ultimately it is governments who have “a responsibility to ensure all these financial transactions are clean and financially transparent. What are they doing. Talking shops. We demand results.”
Why money is not the end in itself
“Money should never be an end in itself,” said Macedo de Medeiros. “But without wealth you cannot distribute and you cannot exert all the social functions that sport needs and exerts. Without means football cannot play its roles to its fullest and have social cultural role people expect. This is why we need financial oversight – robust oversight. We (SIGA) have a robust set of universal standards and independent rating system that is a silver bullet that protects organisations.”
And as for clubs breakaway clubs who claim their ESL plans were motivated by their own poverty, Macedo de Medeiros is dismissive. “They are the people who have inflated transfers and agent commission fees and drag all the clubs in with them. Now they say they are poor… no-one is naïve to believe there is an inch of truth in that, it is pure greed…this galactic way of managing football finances.”
“This represents an opportunity for a new beginning and to do things in a right way. It has to be done with courage and to embrace reform and high standards. At SIGA we call on all organisations and corporations and government to walk the talk and show global leadership.”
To quote Gil Scott Heron’s lyrics: “The revolution will not be televised.” The football revolution Macedo de Medeiros is calling for won’t capture many headlines outside the football business either. But it is a revolution nonetheless. Football fans have already expressed that in the opening battle.
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