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JESSE FINK
THE COUNTER

Jesse Fink is one of Asia's most read football columnists and has been named by ChangeFIFA as an "expert on world football you must follow".

The Rummenigge revolution is coming; and it will be televised

Karl Heinz Rummenigge

he question that needs to be asked apropos the sensational comments of Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who has called for a breakaway European league freed from the straitjacket of UEFA and FIFA control, is why anyone doubts the chances of it actually happening. When the Memorandum of Understanding expires between UEFA and FIFA in 2014, European Club Association president Rummenigge has foreshadowed a "revolution" unless the two most powerful bodies in world football accede to the ECA's demands for a winding back of the international fixture list, better distribution of finances and improved insurance provisions for players who make themselves available for international duty. These are not new demands.

They have been made by a number of club advocates over the past ten years. The difference now is the bargaining position of UEFA and FIFA, surely at its lowest point in their respective histories given recent troubles in the nasty world of football politics. And Rummenigge, a two-time European Footballer of the Year and chief executive of Bayern Munich, is shrewd enough to exploit their weakness. Why do the big clubs of Europe – Bayern, Manchester United, Barcelona, Internazionale, et al – need UEFA and FIFA when the two bodies have hitherto demonstrated they are opaque entities governed by self-interest, overseen by incompetent and oftentimes corrupt kleptocrats and almost completely oblivious to the desires of players, club owners, corporate sponsors and fans?

If evidence were needed, consider the fact that FIFA's blundering executive committee made the decision to give the 2022 World Cup to Qatar on the understanding it would be played at the height of the Arabian summer, with no incontrovertible proof as to the efficacy of the carbon-neutral cooling technologies by German firm Büro Albert Speer & Partners (yes, that Albert Speer) that are supposed to air-condition all those newly constructed, demountable and easily freightable stadiums (after all, they are supposed to packed up and sent to Africa afterwards). The test stadium used for the cooling demonstrations in Qatar's 2022 sales pitch only seated 500. The minimum capacity for World Cup stadiums, of course, is 40,000. The final will be held in a stadium seating 86,250. What club in their right mind would release a Lionel Messi or Robin van Persie, or any player whose transfer value is not far short of the GDP of a small African nation, for such a grand and potentially dangerous folly?

nd, worse, to a tournament run by an organisation whose own corruption-riddled executive committee has sparked more lines of inquiry than the Warren Commission? "I don't accept any longer that we should be guided by people who are not serious and clean," Rummenigge says, rightly. "Now is the moment to intervene because knowing something is wrong is an obligation to change...The clubs pay the players but are not part of the decision-making process. We are not treated respectfully." Ostensibly Rummenigge is threatening a loose recrudescence of the G-14, a federation of Europe's elite clubs that huffed and puffed and made a fair bit of noise a few years ago but was superseded in 2008 by the ECA, which now represents nearly 200 clubs. But a G-14 in control of its own destiny, its own finances, its own competition and not beholden to anyone. (It's worth noting, though, that in 2006 Rummenigge threatened to pull out of the G-14, appalled at how Roman Abramovich was reshaping the transfer market and "everybody in the G-14 thinks only about themselves" rather than the common good. How times have changed.)

And if you think it such a paradigm-busting "revolution" could never happen, you only need to look at Indonesia, which not so long ago had a rebel league financed by an oil tycoon start in direct opposition to the one run by the country's dysfunctional national association and in the face of threats of sanctions and all manner of retribution from FIFA. Eventually the rebel league, the Liga Primer Indonesia (Indonesia Premier League), was allowed to exist and FIFA even came around to recognising it as legitimate. Not that the LPI really needed FIFA's imprimatur. Just as Rummenigge's phantom rebel league doesn't need FIFA's or UEFA's or anyone else's. It just needs a kickstart, some vision, a dose of gumption and a few other clubs to speak up and be counted. Whether it is the right thing for football is another matter entirely and worth debating. What is now in doubt, however, is that UEFA and FIFA in their present guises are well past their usefulness and their use-by dates. Rummenigge's revolution is coming and it will be televised.

 
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