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Blast from Blatter

In Yesterday's Financial Times, FIFA President Sepp Blatter announced a new initiative which threatens no less than a complete overhaul of the financial rules of the game. The FT piece is for subscribers only, but a fair chunk of the his column is extensively quoted in The Scotsman. Blatter uses Chelsea's grip on the EPL title race and the skewed distribution of wealth in World Football to make his point.

A fortunate few clubs are richer than ever before. What makes this a matter of concern is that, all too often, the source of this wealth is individuals with little or no history of interest in the game, who have happened upon football as a means of serving some hidden agenda. Having set foot in the sport seemingly out of nowhere, they proceed to throw pornographic amounts of money at it. If nothing is done, this new money could suffocate a sport that has 1.3 billion active followers around the world.

Those are pointed words - an unwelcome "source of wealth" throwing "pornographic amounts of money," threatening to "suffocate a sport." Players - Rio Ferdinand seems the target here - don't come off much better:

Equally unacceptable are the sort of wage negotiations that can produce the spectacle of semi-educated, sometimes foul-mouthed players on £100,000-a-week holding clubs to ransom until they get, say, £120,000-a-week.

...It is simply insane for any player to 'earn' £6million to £8million a year when the annual budget of even a club competing in the Champions League may be less than half that. What logic, right, or economic necessity would qualify a man in his mid-20s to demand to earn in a month a sum that his own father and the majority of fans could not hope to earn in a decade? What, in other words, are the limits? And should we not start setting some?

Here is the problem as I see it. World football is too big to govern. The idea that FIFA could impose NFL-type salary caps to equalize wage bills of clubs eligible to compete in the Champions League is preposterous. The best they might accomplish would loosely tie the wage bill to club revenues, but the disparity in revenues between clubs is enormous. That doesn't get us very far.

Moreover, any attempt to tell Real Madrid to sell fewer shirts or to cap their TV contract would kill FIFA, not Real Madrid. The money is with the big clubs, and they'll end up writing the financial rules of the game, with or without FIFA's governance.