When Stockport County went on tour to China in 2001, it seemed symptomatic of a breezy optimism that the People’s Republic’s new-found enthusiasm for football might somehow make international brands of even comparatively small European clubs.
I can’t be the only European football follower of a certain age who last week, when the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek hit the news for the reasons we all know about, thought that the name of the place rang a vague bell.
As regular readers may know, I am sceptical about sport’s ability to bring doping by top-level athletes under anything resembling control. Equally, the spectre of a complete pharmaceutical free-for-all is, in some respects, so disturbing that I would concede we need to be certain we have exhausted all avenues before we all, to borrow a phrase used last week by Independent Commission chair Richard Pound, “go home”.
We may be heading towards a tipping-point in the globalisation of football. Actually, that is not quite exact: we may be heading towards a tipping-point in the Europeanisation of world football culture. What I have in mind is the point when the big European leagues – Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A – start to earn more from international rights to broadcast their matches than domestic rights.
It is doubtless not the smartest move to begin a column you hope one or two people might actually read in the style of an IQ test or a maths exam. Just this once, however, I am going to chance it.
One word dominated this year’s Sportel event in Monte Carlo. That word was China. The explanation for this can be encapsulated in one word as well. That word is money.
From my name, you might think me as Welsh as a laverbread breakfast. But I’m not, so I have been able to observe the recent Welsh sporting resurgence with cool, objective detachment.
The football world is agog over a SFr2 million payment made by governing body FIFA to Michel Platini, the man who aspires to be its next President, in 2011 – for work completed in 2002.
Friday’s shenanigans at FIFA prompted a number of sporting sages to prophesy the demise of Sepp Blatter well before the February 26 Congress that is supposed to elect a new FIFA President. I wonder though if the big loser might not turn out to be Michel Platini.
This has been a week when the names of Wayne Rooney and Bobby Charlton have been juxtaposed a million times, making comparisons between these authors of a combined 99 England goals inevitable.
Sports leaders are often keen to ascribe a higher purpose to the gloriously trivial pursuits to which they owe their positions. Hence last year’s agreement aimed at strengthening collaboration between the United Nations (UN) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC); hence FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s dogged attempts to use football to help map out a modus vivendi between Israel and Palestine.
I was interested to read Laila Mintas’s recent column on voting reform at FIFA. But while I can see much logic in the position she stakes out, and can certainly appreciate the democratic anomaly of China (population 1.3 billion) having the same voting power as American Samoa and Andorra (populations each less than 100,000), it seems to me there are more important matters to focus on before the introduction of Mintas’s Point-Voting-System can have any bearing on the calibre of governance in world football.
Much has been made of the appointment of a veteran of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s Salt Lake City crisis to chair the new body charged with drafting a package of reform proposals far-reaching enough to salvage FIFA’s battered reputation.
Have we hit peak Sheikh? That was a question being posed in the luxury hotel bars of Kuala Lumpur last week during the 128th International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session.
Few deals tell us as much about what football was, and what it is becoming, as the recent transaction that has seen a second division club based in the Eastern French town of Montbéliard (population: about 26,000) change hands for a reported €7 million.