MONACO (Reuters) - UEFA president Michel Platini said on Friday that the warning lights were flashing and he fears for the future of professional soccer if the game does not urgently clean up its act.
Platini, stressing that he was giving his personal view, told reporters in Monte Carlo in his traditional season-opening message: “I can see lots of red lights flashing and I am afraid for the future of football which is going pear-shaped in some areas.”
He said he had no fear that the game would always be loved by millions, and would always be played in the street and parks, but was seriously concerned about the money flooding into the game and the viability of clubs to survive.
He said that UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules were vital in ensuring that some degree of accountability was introduced to the leading clubs, and although there had been some criticism of his insistence it was introduced, there was no turning back.
“There is no alternative,” he said, “Clubs have to live within their means. But we are facing huge problems. Perhaps I am being alarmist, but we have to face up to match-fixing, corruption, illegal betting, violence on the pitch, racism and hooliganism.
“Of course there are many good qualities and values about football, but we ignore the problems at our peril.”
He said the threatened strikes in powerful soccer nations like Italy and Spain were symptomatic of real problems in the game at the highest level.
“I am very worried when players are going on strike in Spain and Italy because they are not being paid properly by their clubs. And is it not just a problem for Europe and UEFA but everyone.”
Match-fixing scandals have badly tarnished the game recently, with Turkish champions Fenerbahce this week withdrawn from the Champions League amid investigations into allegations in that country.
Platini continued: “When I was a player, they loved me in Fenerbahce, but if I went back there now they would hang me.
“There is nothing glamorous about being the president of FIFA, or UEFA — it comes with a lot of responsibilities and one of those is to maintain the integrity of the game.
“If you have match-fixing and the result of the game is known before it is played, what is the point of going to the match, or reporting it?
“It is a major problem, and together with the clubs, the national associations, FIFA and the other confederations we must stop it.”
Platini has called for a summit meeting of the presidents of all 53 UEFA nations to be held next month, in which every issue facing the game will be discussed with the aim of formulating new ways of battling the problems.
“We need to talk about these issues together,” he said. “There are lots of red lights flashing and we have to act before its too late.”
Reporting by Mike Collett; Editing by Alastair Himmer