Europe's soccer body gloats at FIFA's fall but has its own critics

Fri Jun 5, 2015 2:09pm EDT
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By Brian Homewood

ZURICH (Reuters) - European soccer's governing body UEFA has long led the opposition to the global game's boss Sepp Blatter, so it's no surprise that its officials have taken the moral high ground as corruption scandals brought the FIFA president down.

UEFA president Michel Platini, a former player who describes himself as a romantic, says the goings on at FIFA's Zurich headquarters turn his stomach.

But UEFA has critics of its own, who say its policies have showered wealth on a handful of super-teams in a handful of rich leagues, while draining competition from the sport.

For all its scandal-plagued image, FIFA, which distributes revenue equally among its member nations, does a better job of promoting soccer away from the mainstream. Blatter's rein, whatever his flaws, saw unprecedented success for soccer in poor countries, especially in Africa.

In Europe under Platini's eight-year leadership, meanwhile, it is the rich who have done best, with football becoming more unequal than ever.

The Champions League, UEFA's flagship competition, is dominated by the same few clubs year after year, thanks to a financial system which critics say has a snowball effect.

Three clubs - Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich - have each missed the competition's final four just once in the last six seasons.

"It is a two-speed football with an increasingly unbridgeable gap separating the ultra-elite of the wealthiest ones and the remaining 99 percent of clubs," said Jerome Champagne, a former senior FIFA official who launched an unsuccessful bid against Blatter for the FIFA presidency.   Continued...

Journalists are reflected in the FIFA logo as they wait for a news conference after a meeting of the FIFA executive committee in Zurich March 20, 2015. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann