Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Agenda Items

Two interesting stories coming out of last week’s FIFA executive meetings which you may have missed in all the Brazil hoopla.

The executive committee has announced a ban on the “third-party ownership of players”. You will all no doubt recall this issue from the last season’s interminable Carlos Tevez saga. The issue, briefly, was that West Ham had broken premiership rules by permitting an individual other than the club (in this case, the mysterious Kia Joorabchian) to have control over a player’s “economic rights”. Much tut-tutting about how terrible it was that these shady Latin American practices were being brought to Europe, blah blah.

Much of the “concern” about this was highly hypocritical. Some of the unease came from the idea of a player being “owned” by an individual such as an agent – though the legal relationship between player and owner was in fact legally no different than the relationship between player and club – and arrangement which seems to suit everybody just fine. People also seem to have no problem with the Italian variation on this phenomenon – namely, the idea that player can be “co-owned” by more than one team simultaneously.

Anyways, the FIFA Executive Committee, in a not-unusual fit of righteousness, have banned the practice. This is good for the self-proclaimed modern-day Wilberforces, but it’s terrible news for Latin American clubs. Whatever one thinks of these arrangements, the bald fact of the matter is that without these kinds of deals, an awful lot of Latin American clubs – Argentinan ones in particular - would have gone to the wall over the past decade. In financial terms, these arrangements were effectively ways of securitizing team assets – of getting money for players in advance of their actual sale and departure to (usually) Europe. They came at a steep discount, of course, but they permitted clubs to cash in on sales while still retaining the players for a time. Which, when you think about it, is pretty ingenious and not to be lightly dismissed as a financial model.

Also, we can be relatively sure that FIFA have left some bone-headed loophole in te regulations which people will rush to exploit, thereby serving to make the murky finances of Argentinian and Brazilian clubs even more opaque than before. Expect this story to run for awhile.


FIFA bans Spain’s Franchise FC (well, future iterations, anyway). A FIFA decision which will generate a surprising amount of goodwill among real football fans! The Executive Committee announced that it will try to force its member associations to eliminate the practice of clubs buying places in higher divisions. We’re not talking here of Genoa-style bribes to win promotion here – we’re talking about actually purchasing playing licenses of teams higher up the pyramid. This, believe it or not, actually happened this year when Spanish fourth division side Granada 74 which succeeded in effectively purchased a place in the country's second division from struggling Ciudad de Murcia. The Spanish federation permitted the move after the Court of Arbitration for Sport OK’d the move.

Now among the no al calico moderno and AFC Wimbledon crowds, this move will be a big hit. They believe – probably rightly given their historical contexts, that the proper way to move up and down divisions is through relegation and promotion. Indeed, when Blatter made the announcements, he said: "We are not happy with that (the CAS) decision which goes against the principles of our game where promotion and relegation is the essence."

Well, quite. Except…uh, Sepp…MLS? How Don Garber and the USSA will take that statement is an interesting question. Does it mean that, in principle, FIFA could force MLS to adopt relegation and promotion? It seems unlikely that he would ever try, but that he would even suggest that he has the right to do it suggests a man who is very comfortable on the throne.

As for me, I’m all in favour of this one – provided that equal treatment is given to all. However, I seem to recall a complete absence of protest from FIFA when Fiorentina were arbitrarily allowed to jump a level (skipping straight from C2 to B) a few years ago when they were on their way back from bankruptcy. The difference seems to be that Fiorentina are football aristocracy whereas Granada 74 are just parvenus. However, sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander: if Granada have to go back down, so too should the viola. No doubt this is why FIFA are not making their decision retroactive...

5 Comments:

Anonymous ursus arctos said...

You are doing this just to provoke me, aren't you?

The Viola's (actually Florentia Viola's, as we hadn't gotten our name back yet) "skipping" of C1 may have been a classic case of playing favourites, but was not in any way "arbitrary".

If Gaucci hadn't pulled out every administrative and legal stop (including recourse to the courts) to get Catania's relegation overturned because of Siena's alleged use of an illegible player, and if the FIGC had not decided to keep Genoa and Salernitana (the other relegated teams) in B for equitable reasons, and if Cosenza hadn't gone bankrupt (therefore leaving B with 23 teams), the application of the "sporting history" principle to allow Florentia Viola into B never would have been possible.

Of course, current events clearly demonstrate that we had no business being in B, as it is increasingly clear that our "rightful" place can only be at or near the very top of Serie A.

Clenched paw in support of the Granada 74 decision, btw.

1:19 AM  
Blogger Antonio G said...

??

And all this time me thinking you were an Inter fan.

You seem to be arguing that because the rest of the league and the FIGC went nutty koo-koo with lawsuits one summer (all of which were settled in a decidedly weird manner just before the start of the season) that one more nutty koo-koo decision shouldn't be considered arbitrary. Is that about the size of it?

I think we'll have to disagree about that. If Serie A is Fiorentina's rightful place (and I think that's true, btw) then one more season paying their dues and obeying the sacred principles of promotion and relegation wouldn't have mattered much, would it?

2:03 AM  
Anonymous ursus arctos said...

My son is an Interista. He doesn't let me go when they play the Viola.

I agree that it wouldn't have hurt us long term to spend a year in C1, but in the context of the other decisions, I just don't think that you can describe the application of an existing rule as arbitrary.

10:31 AM  
Blogger Antonio G said...

Your son is very wise. I saw the Viola play Inter at the San Siro seven years ago and the neroazzurri had their ass handed to them on a platter.

11:17 AM  
Blogger Antonio G said...

Your son is very wise. I saw the Viola play Inter at the San Siro seven years ago and the neroazzurri had their ass handed to them on a platter.

11:17 AM  

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