Uefa president Michel Platini tells Dubai crowd he wants to combine conservatism and audacity

The incumbent president of European football’s governing body reiterated his vision for the future during the ninth annual Dubai International Sports Conference, writes Gary Meenaghan.
Uefa president Michel Platini, second from right, attends the opening session of the ninth Dubai International Sports Conference on December 28, 2014 in Dubai. AFP PHOTO/MARWAN NAAMANI
Uefa president Michel Platini, second from right, attends the opening session of the ninth Dubai International Sports Conference on December 28, 2014 in Dubai. AFP PHOTO/MARWAN NAAMANI

Implementing sin bins and restricting video technology remain two key objectives for European football, Michel Platini said in Dubai on Sunday, just days after being confirmed as the sole candidate in Uefa’s presidential elections next year.

The incumbent president of European football’s governing body reiterated his vision for the future during the ninth annual Dubai International Sports Conference.

It was Platini’s first public appearance since the three-month deadline for submissions of candidacy for March’s presidential elections passed on December 24. With no other names put forward, Platini will stand unopposed as he seeks a third four-year term.

The Frenchman has long championed the idea of giving referees the option of a third coloured card to be used when players simulate fouls. He has also been stubborn in his refusal to embrace video replays and was a vocal critic of goal-line technology before its implementation this year.

During an awkward appearance yesterday morning that saw him trip up on the stage and then be forced to deliver his keynote speech twice after organisers failed to provide a French translator, Platini made his concepts clear. Frustratedly repeating his presentation in Italian to the 500-plus delegates, he said the future of football “must combine conservatism and audacity”.

“Football is the most beautiful game in the world. It is so popular it is considered the only universal sport. We don’t want to change it too much,” he said. “We have to change some of the bad aspects, but we don’t want to make any substantial changes.

“We need to be creative but preserve the beautiful aspects of the sport, and Uefa are committed to doing this.”

Platini, who was elected in 2007 and turns 60 next year, said one of the aspects hindering football’s growth and reputation is bad behaviour on the pitch, including play-acting and players aggressively surrounding the referee.

“This is not acceptable to those who do not love the game,” he said.

Platini said that providing a referee with a white card would give officials the power to send a player off the field temporarily. “There will still be yellow cards, but by creating another card, like there is in rugby, it could help the game grow among casual fans.”

Platini, speaking alongside a host of former players and football figures at the two-day event, maintained the sport must refuse the urge to substantially implement video replays.

While the three-time Ballon d’Or winner accepted goal-line technology has been a success since it was introduced at the Fifa World Cup last summer, he is wary of increased calls for more technology.

“Managers and directors who never played football always talk about technology, but former players never do,” Platini said.

“We know that [shirt tugging] happens and TV doesn’t give the certainty of a foul. It’s about interpretation. It is much easier to use technology for goallines or offside, but when we talk about fouls, technology can’t be very helpful.”

Gianni Infantino, Uefa’s secretary-general, also dismissed suggestions Platini standing unopposed at the March 24 presidential election might reflect badly on European football’s governing body. Fifa president Sepp Blatter ran unopposed for re-election in 2011 amid great criticism and the Swiss is likely to walk Fifa’s presidential elections again on May 29.

Infantino was quick to distance the reputations of the two bodies and their respective leaders.

“Michel’s record over the past eight years speaks for itself,” Infantino said. “It is not a question of whether [one candidate elections] look good or not, but rather about the transparency of the organisation.

“When it comes to Uefa, nobody is opposing Michel Platini because everything is on the table and everyone sees what he’s doing. Fifa is a matter for Fifa. We just have to make sure that at Uefa things run professionally.”

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

Follow us on Twitter @SprtNationalUAE

Published: December 28, 2014 04:00 AM

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