Football: Uefa Hesitating as Money Erodes Football's Sporting Ethics; BUSINESS OF SPORT

Article excerpt

Byline: PETER SHARKEY

In April of last year, Uefa issued a 34-page discussion document entitled Vision Europe which sought to address what they felt were the key trends impacting upon the game, together with details of what options the body had to correct or encourage them.

The paper was commendably forthright in explaining how a change in attitude "from sporting to financial [and] commercial values" had affected every aspect of European football.

"It has been happening over a long period of time and reflects the development of society in general," it continued, before concluding that, "the principal effect of this trend is that, gradually, sporting and ethical values are being eroded under increasing commercial and financial pressures."

The change in structure, ownership, de facto control and objectives of professional football clubs has changed markedly over the past two decades.

It is an area closely linked to the change in values and both are partly responsible for the other. Uefa clearly recognise this: "In many countries," Vision Europe continued, "professional clubs have changed from non-profit-making associations to limited companies. Such changes were often made for good reasons for those imposing the decision, but not always with good results for football. [Accordingly], the proportion of owners in football looking primarily for financial returns has increased."

Having addressed the impact that this change in attitude has had, Uefa concluded that "Uefa has an obligation to take specific measures regarding wealth in European football to avoid instability and avoid polarization. Separate decisions cannot be made for individual parts of the overall picture - global solutions are needed."

This was a bold statement by Uefa, although sadly, to date, very little action appears to have been taken in support of its noble ambitions. Moreover, it appears to be running out of time if it plans taking effective action.

Financial polarization was much in evidence prior to the closing of the August transfer window as agents courted football club directors in an effort to persuade them to part with ridiculous sums of money for so-so players.

The summer's most audacious move involving players, agents, 'advisers' and another possible foreign takeover occurred in east London where two of the world's highest-rated young footballers, Argentine World Cup stars Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano, ended up at West Ham United.

Now West Ham are the type of club that most football fans like: they've always played open, attractive football, they have a good, loyal supporter base and a record of sticking with their senior coaches through thick and thin - since 1902, they have had just ten managers. …