Breakfast with Michel Platini is an annual media gathering on the fringes of the Champions League draw in Monaco that has become almost de rigueur for anyone trying to get inside the head of the UEFA president.
Category: Andrew Warshaw
Published on Monday, 02 September 2013 13:23
Informal and charmingly mischievous, you invariably get him in an engaging, outgoing mood - in a variety of languages - away from all those official functions and formalities.
Yet among the nods, winks, innuendos and wise-cracking, Platini always provides informative, on-the-record intelligent value when it comes to his personal - and often contentious - take on football's ills and how to resolve them.
So it was last Friday when he took time out to pour further fuel on a number of burning issues, not least the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Not for the first time, Platini had already made it clear at an official briefing that his favoured solution to the summer-versus-winter issue is to hold the finals in January even if this might run into complications; firstly because it would most likely be too close to the winter Olympics and secondly because it would mean players and coaches having to prepare for the tournament over Christmas and the New Year.
Although many countries would conveniently be on a winter break during Platini's preferred time, an even stronger case seems to be emerging for any winter switch to take place before rather than after Christmas. That, of course, would clash with UEFA's precious club competitions, a scenario clearly not lost on Platini.
Neither timescale is ideal. Platini knows which he would prefer even if he may not ultimately get his way but of equal importance to the UEFA boss is that everyone sings from the same hymn sheet in terms of the principle of a switch away from the fearsome Gulf summer heat.
One of the main opponents of any such move, of course, is the English Premier League, claiming that it will disrupt three league seasons - the 2022 campaign and the campaigns on either side.
Platini, who has long refuted ridiculous suggestions that he is anti-English, nevertheless feels irritated by what he perceives as downright stubbornness by the Premier League - and said as much to assorted scribes. Simply finish the season in June instead of May, he explained.
"Listen, it is only a break of one month. We normally stop one month in May, instead we stop one month at another time. Let me say something to the English: we have respected your calendar for 150 years - for one month in 150 years you can change. I played in winter all my life, in the snow, in the rain, because of your calendar. You can change it for one month - I don't ask any more.
"In Qatar there is nobody there in June, they are all in Europe, it's 50 degrees and you can do nothing. I have said that from the beginning and I was always transparent about that because I think it is time we take the World Cup to an Arabic country."
Platini is to gauge the views of the European associations at a UEFA executive committee meeting in Dubrovnik, Croatia, later this month. It's shaping up to be an important affair since Platini has announced that's also when he plans to tell his colleagues exactly what his intentions are as far as running for the FIFA presidency in 2015 is concerned.
"Will he stand or won't he" has been an intriguing and persistent question. But this was one subject on which Platini was not prepared to expand, especially in front of a group of news-hungry European journalists, having seemingly already said too much to the French sports newspaper L'Equipe about his intentions.
"I will say something to the national associations but give me the time to think about it," was all Platini was prepared to offer when asked what he would be revealing at the September 19 - 20 meeting.
But would it be worth us all going to Dubrovnik to find out exactly what he discloses? "Of course," the Frenchman answered with a playful grin. "It's a beautiful city." Typical Platini. Sharp and impish as ever.
One subject he remains passionate about and which he WAS prepared to discuss was that old chestnut, goal-line technology. Platini firmly believes his renowned opposition has been vindicated. An experiment monitoring offside decisions is being undertaken in Holland while Greg Dyke, new chairman of England's Football Association, has advocated the use of technology for fouls in and around the penalty box.
"From the start I was against this technology because then we will have the offside technology, the penalties, the throw-ins, the corners, we will have everything and that will indeed be the opening of Pandora's box," said Platini. "We have other sports in Europe having huge problems and their technology is not 100% reliable."
Platini has missed several points, however. Most top-ranked referees themselves favour technology - surely a more than relevant point - while so do the majority of fans. Platini may fear a slippery slope but the only body who can take the decision to extend goalline technology into other areas of the game is the International FA Board, the game's law-making body which comprises FIFA and the four British associations.
Crucial to this is that FIFA always has a majority four votes within the IFAB structure while the other members have one each. And FIFA have always been categoric they will only ever, in their own competitions, allow technology to decide whether or not the ball has crossed the line. Everything else is off-limits.
Platini has come up with several laudable initiatives during his time as UEFA president. His concept of a pan-Continental European championship in 2020, for instance, is inspired. But he should perhaps stop beating the anti-technology drum so hard. Instead, why not take a straw poll among stakeholders to find out whether they prefer goalline technology to his preferred alternative of two extra officials. I wonder what the result would be.Andrew Warshaw is chief correspondent of Insideworldfootball. Contact Andrew at