By J Hutcherson - WASHINGTON, DC (Mar 23, 2011) US Soccer Players -- Leave it to the FIFA presidential election to already turn away from any issues within a week. Both sitting president Sepp Blatter and candidate Mohamed bin Hammam are openly courting UEFA president Michel Platini. The thought is with Platini's support, the road gets a lot easier for that candidate. After all, Platini had no toruble getting another term as UEFA president.
Meanwhile, UEFA is hardly the model for effective governance coming out of Platini's first term. They're still pushing a misguided attempt to reset club football's economics. It's not an empty criticism to see UEFA as an organization that has still shown no real ability to fix their own problems, instead focusing on creating new ones. This remains the governing body that responded to the threat of a breakaway European Super League by tinkering with their competitions to appease the big clubs and then watering down their own club lobby by trying to include everyone.
The big clubs in Europe still have very little in common with the rest of the clubs in their own leagues, much less random leagues around Europe. Sure, the big and small clubs might end up playing each other in European competitions, but that hardly makes them similar. UEFA is still on a course that downplays - if not outright ignores - the real implications of that disparity until it blows up on them. Thus the old two-stage Champions League format, the multiple revamps of the UEFA Cup turned Europa League, and now the financial regulations.
How that plays out over the next couple of years is the next real test of leadership for UEFa and its president. It's also absolutely one of their own creation. That needs to be stressed when assigning Platini the role as the next FIFA president.
Since Platini isn't running, that means four more years of Blatter. The sitting FIFA president has already made the biggest election promise, that he'll retire in 2016. That clears the stage for Platini, should he decide to take that route. bin Hammam isn't likely to promise the same, and it's an open question what a closer link between FIFA and the richest Confederation would mean to the rest of the World.
bin Hammam has no choice but to try to win UEFA's affection. Yet even at this stage he needs to be very careful. When you're running as the future, you don't need to unnecessarily tie that future to what's beyond your control.
Sitting And Standing
In a discussion that's been going on since the Taylor Report banned them, the Premier League has now waded into the debate on terraces. For those otherwise occupied, that's the old style standing sections that used to be common behind the goals in most British stadiums.
Since the Taylor Report and UEFA's requirement for all-seater stadiums for European competitions, the Bundesliga has been at the forefront of safe terracing. It's convertible, switching from terracing to seats when needed.
And for those of you wondering why that sort of thing was never common in the United States, some older gridiron stadiums had terracing. It was normally replaced with aluminum bleachers. An example was Soldier Field in Chicago. The stadium that the new Soldier Field replaced was built within the original stadium's horseshoe footprint. An old section of the stadium still existed behind the locker rooms. It had terracing and crush barriers, just like British stadiums pre-Taylor. The American examples are long gone for obvious reasons.
What has fueled the modern debate in England is tradition versus safety. The Premier League has added a new argument. All-seater stadiums make it easier and far more likely for families to attend games together. Yes, most British stadiums have always had family sections, but the Premier League is publicly arguing against terracing as an accessability issue.
It's an interesting point, taking the conversation away from the traditional understanding of a mostly male fan base for English soccer. They also have the last twenty years on their side.
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