Michel Platini (Getty)

(WFI) Michel Platini today urged European Union sports ministers to condemn third-party ownership of football players and to back UEFA’s financial fair play measures.

The UEFA president made a keynote speech at a meeting of EU sports ministers in Rome. His address followed the signing of a cooperation agreement between UEFA and the European Commission in Brussels last week.

“On several occasions in recent years, I have expressed my concern about the growing number of immoral practices that are happening on the fringes of the football pyramid,” he said, according to UEFA.com.

“You know how determined I am to stamp them out. I do not believe they can be cast out by saying nothing, ignoring them and pretending they do not exist, but that, quite the reverse, they demand concrete action, energy and collective effort.”

Commenting on the third-party ownership (TPO) of players, which FIFA decided to ban at a meeting last month, he said: “With insidious methods and ruthless objectives this phenomenon shows a blatant disregard for human dignity, the integrity of our competitions, and even the financing of grassroots sport.

“This terrible practice, previously seen only in South America, is now sweeping through the whole of Europe.”

Platini said that the practice contravened human dignity principles laid down in the EU’s charter of fundamental rights.

“Third-party ownership of players refers to the situation where a player is – to put it bluntly – carved up into economic rights, which are then shared between one or more investment funds. The players concerned lose their contractual freedom, as the owners of their economic rights abuse the powers entrusted to them and secure lucrative financial deals at the players’ expense. They are therefore deprived of their free will.”

Platini pointed to a worst-case scenario, “if the same fund owned the economic rights of a number of players in different teams in the same competition”.

“The nightmare of match-fixing could rear its ugly head. The essential values of integrity and sincerity that should be embodied in sport are therefore being scorned, even violated,” he said.

He said TPO was threatening the ethics of sport at continental level. “There is no place for third-party ownership of players in European sport,” he said. “A tailor-made legal framework is therefore required. If we fail to deal with this properly, it will not just be a defeat for UEFA, nor even just for the sports movement, but for all Europe. There is therefore an urgent need to act and respond.”

On financial fair play (FFP), Platini said that regulations were designed to guarantee football’s long-term economic future.

“Previously unthinkable reforms have been adopted and implemented and they have proved successful,” he reflected.

“The basis for [financial fair play] comes down to two sayings: ‘you should live within your means’ and ‘there’s a line that must not be crossed’.”

European football’s governing body has brought in the FFP rules in efforts to reduce the debts being accumulated by clubs and to improve financial best practice.

“We have started to put football on the right track,” he stressed. “Each of us must measure how far we have come. Aggregate losses among European clubs, which had reached €1.7bn in 2011, fell to €800m in 2013, a drop of more than 50% in less than two years. Thanks to financial fair play, we are therefore heading in the right direction.”

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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