VIENNA: Michel Platini has been re-elected, by acclamation, as president of European federation UEFA for a further four years – after issuing a warning against a return of crowd violence writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
UEFA had proposed in 2013 that a president of world federation FIFA should serve only two four-year terms but Platini, in fact, will be serving for a third up until 2019.
He will thus continue in his role as a vice-president of FIFA and may then reconsider his refusal, this spring, to challenge for the leadership of the world federation.
Early messages of congratulations came from FIFA president Sepp Blatter and from the European Club Association.
In a keynote address to UEFA Congress in Vienna, shortly before his re-election, Platini cautioned of a return to the “dark days” of hooliganism unless governmental and police authorities across Europe stepped up efforts to combat a problem which appeared linked to the rise of extremist nationalism.
He reiterated his previous proposal for the creation of a European sports police force to prevent a repeat of events witnessed in the “not-so-distant past, a past where hooligans and all manner of fanatics called the shots in certain European stadiums.”
Platini called to mind his own personal experience, having been a player with Juventus when crowd trouble before the 1985 Champions Cup Final against Liverpool at the Heysel stadium in Brussels led to the deaths of 39 people.
Platini complained that UEFA had been “left to fend for ourselves somewhat” to combat “battles that can only be won with the help of the public authorities”.
Sports police proposal
He added: “In recent months, we have all been struck by certain images that I thought were a thing of the past. Some of us experienced that past at first hand. In my case, it was exactly 30 years ago.
“Nobody wants a repeat of such events. We need tougher stadium bans at European level and – I will say it again – the creation of a European sports police force. This is something I starting calling for back in 2007, just after I was first elected.”
Recently, a Greek Cup quarter-final between AEK Athens and Olympiakos was called off after a pitch invasion by fans in the Olympic Stadium after the Greek league had already been suspended, for a third time this season, by the government after persistent crowd trouble.
Ukraine’s Dynamo Kiev had to close part of their stadium after crowd trouble at the Olympic Stadium in their Europa League game against Guingamp while last October, Serbia’s match with Albania was abandoned after a drone carrying a political message led to clashes involving players and fans.
As far as the tetchy relationship between UEFA and FIFA was concerned, Platini insisted that UEFA would continue to work closely with the world federation whatever the outcome of its presidential election on May 29; incumbent Sepp Blatter is being challenged by three UEFA-backed candidates in Prince Ali of Jordan, Dutchman Michael Van Praag and Portugal’s Luis Figo.
He said: “We love FIFA deeply … it’s because we love and respect FIFA that we want it to be perfect. We Europeans want a strong FIFA, a FIFA that is respectable and respected.”
Platini said some people wanted to isolate UEFA as ”arrogant and selfish.”
He cautioned: ”Certain people are perhaps trying to turn us against each other, seeking to divide and rule. Don’t believe everything you hear. We know that we make mistakes and are not necessarily any better than anyone else.”