Saturday, February 23, 2008

Unlikely hero Blatter has the enemy in his sights

Unlikely hero Blatter has the enemy in his sights.
It has been a rare treat for the used and abused football fan to see the Premier League so humiliated as they have been this past week.

The seemingly invincible money-machine that was born in 1993 has for the first time hit a real brick wall in its quest to rob football of all its traditions in the pursuit of profit.

I have relished watching those whom the PL thought were their friends - the FA, Manchester United etc, turn tail and slam their colonial project.

For challenging their authority, the upstart division's pretensions of grandeur have met a cannonade of criticism from the real powers in the game, who have torpedoed the ludicrous 'Game 39' proposal.

Hopefully now it will sink to the bottom and die next Thursday when PL Chief Executive Richard Scudamore and FA Chairman Lord Triesman come up against FIFA boss Sepp Blatter in Zurich.

Should the PL persist with their daft and ill-conceived plan, FIFA will again lock swords with the PL at their Executive Meeting on the 14th of March and then at their general Congress on the 29th of May. By then, England's World Cup bid will be in the shadow, the last thing the FA wants.
Blatter has been implacably opposed to the idea, digging the knife in by saying it would harm England's 2018 World Cup bid.

For all the Swiss' cronyism, corporate selling-out and Machiavellian machinations since 1998, he is my hero now for telling the Premier League where to go. Driving a wedge between them and the FA and engaging the fans by threatening to lose England the World Cup was the perfect tactic. Attacking your opponent's weaknesses with your strengths is straight from The Art of War.
Blatter seems to have finally twigged that the marriage between football and commerce, which FIFA ran along with for the past decade, will end in tears as the game will sell its soul for good.
After presiding over an amazing corporate takeover of the World Cup, his recent pronouncements have been more vociferous than ever in defence of the international game and protecting the national identity of domestic leagues from the money-men.

At the same time as welcoming Brazil as hosts for the 2014 World Cup, he rebuked the five-times winners for exporting so many footballers around the world and told them to stay at home.
The question is whether these are genuine threats or mere desperate rantings of a man who has lost control of his children.

Should 'Game 39' disappear quietly into the shadows, the Premier League only has itself to blame for not canvassing more support behind the scenes before it presented its plan to the world.

The idea also had a fatal flaw - adding an extra game instead of playing an early-season and thus relatively meaningless regular season fixture overseas, as the NFL did recently in London.

They should content themselves with overseas friendlies and defer graciously now England's World Cup bid is in danger.

Of course, as well all now know beyond question, the interests of the English national team and the whole of the nation's fans are quite opposed to those of the Premier League.

Next Thursday, I want Blatter to blow the Premiership out of the water.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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