At the end of a season in which no Premier League representative made it as far as the quarter-finals of either major European club competition, it seems most odd to be thinking in terms of a new era of English dominance in European club football. Yet, recent developments look to be conspiring to make this all but inevitable.
It being general election week here in the United Kingdom, I thought it would be a good time to take a look at the FIFA Presidential election – via the medium of the four candidates’ Twitter feeds. Not because I judge this likely to offer great insights into the identity of the eventual winner: the football officials in whose hands the outcome lies are assuredly far too high-minded to be swayed by anything as trivial as social media.
Remember the date: April 30 may well turn out to be a more significant day for the medium- to long-term future of FIFA than May 29. That might seem a strange claim, given that the latter is the date of the FIFA Presidential election to determine the occupant of the second-most powerful post in sport for the next four years.
It was interesting to read the recent report to the effect that European Club Association (ECA) head Karl-Heinz Rummenigge believes that football’s perennial club-versus-country tug of war is now receding.
Watching developments in English football can be a trying business, whether we are talking on or off the pitch. So it is characteristic that a week which brought a big step forward in manoeuvring a respected English voice on to the sport’s top table should also have featured a proposal from the boss of the Football Association that would, in my opinion, represent a significant backwards step both for the Premier League and the England team he is trying to strengthen.
Chelsea’s dramatic Champions League elimination at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday night makes it likely that next week will bring down the curtain on the participation of Premier League clubs in this season’s flagship European club competition, before even the quarter-final stage. Survival in the other big continent-wide tournament, the Europa League, may last only a further 24 hours if Everton cannot get the better of Ukraine’s Dynamo Kiev over two legs.
I don’t often say this, but three cheers to the Football Association (FA) for signalling its desire to continue sending teams to the Olympic football tournament. I just hope that at some point it becomes possible once again for a Great Britain Olympic squad to be genuinely British.
It ain’t over ’til it’s over: FIFA’s ruling Executive Committee is not expected to rubber stamp its task force’s recommendation until next month and the big European clubs employ so many of the world’s top players these days that their bargaining power should not be underestimated.
Capitalism and popular culture do not always make comfortable bedfellows, especially when the bed is football. The Premier League’s new £5.1 billion domestic TV rights deal has brought calls for lower ticket prices.
FIFA isn’t the only International Sports Federation (IF) with a Presidential election on at the moment. And, looking at the way the campaign for the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Presidency has started, it is hard not to conclude that world football’s governing body has a few lessons to learn.
As if events swirling around FIFA needed to get any more surreal, Joseph Blatter was last week challenged for the Presidency of the world football governing body by a man purported to be a direct descendant of the prophet Muhammad.
Remember the stock line about England World Cup winner Martin Peters? He was, they said, “ahead of his time”. This for the way he would ghost into the opposition penalty area unremarked.
Steven Gerrard always struck me as the opposite: a player “behind his time”; a throwback.
By David Owen
It was lost – understandably – in the Kafkaesque farce surrounding the Garcia report, but last week’s meeting of the FIFA executive committee in Marrakech has left us business of football types with another financial teaser to savour.
One of the qualities that have underpinned Sepp Blatter’s long career in sports administration/politics is his bouncebackability. This was on display again in Monaco last week.
Like interplanetary bodies whose orbits momentarily align, two of the Big Beasts of world sport were to be found for a few hours last Friday within the confines of the same building.