GENEVA: If Europe’s leading clubs had a vote in the FIFA presidential election next February 26 then Michel Platini would be their favoured choice writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

In 2008 the then newly-elected European federation’s French president played a decisive role in the creation of the powerful European Club Association after dissolving UEFA’s old clubs committee.

ECA now has 220 members including all the federation’s major clubs as evidenced by elections at this week’s general assembly which saw membership of the main committees feature representatives from the likes of Bayern Munich, Milan, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United and Arsenal.

Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, also chairman of Bayern, was a high-profile opponent of Platini on the world’s football pitches in the 1970s and 1980s but now they are united in a European common purpose.

The conversion of rivalry into support was expressed by Rummenigge after the assembly on being asked about ECA’s preference for the next leader of the world federation when Sepp Blatter steps down early next year. Platini is current favourite though the nominations deadline is not until October 26.

Rummenigge said: “We have had a very good experience with UEFA and especially with Michel Platini because we don’t forget that he was one of the ECA founders.

Respect reference

“We were sometimes opponents on the field but off the field I would call us friends so we have a lot of respect though we don’t know his programme.

“When he gave his last press conference in Monaco [at the European club draws] he didn’t talk about FIFA but we are convinced that [if] he will be president, then he will be a good president of FIFA.”

The FIFA crisis means several club issues have been put on ice pending the world federation’s election. One concerns a proposal from Blatter for a FIFA professional club department.

Umberto Gandini, the ECA’s first vice-president, explained that clubs had been cautioned by Jerome Valcke, FIFA’s secretary-general, not to expect progress of the project any time soon.

Gandini said: “We were informed today by Jerome Valcke that the idea had been to activate this new department but then, following what has happened at FIFA, this is going to be a decision for after the elections so, at the moment, it’s on standby.”

Valcke had indicated, according to Rummenigge, that the current state of affairs at FIFA “is quite difficult, everything except easy.”

Also pending developments at FIFA is whether the executive committee will be restructured to include club representation, as is now the case with UEFA. Rummenigge and Juventus’ Andrea Agnelli will be ECA’s first delegates to the governing board of the European game.

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