How do we trust this mob with Fair Play?
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Buradasınız >> Ana Sayfa IN ENGLISH General Issues How do we trust this mob with Fair Play?

How do we trust this mob with Fair Play?

By Martin Samuel 12 October 2011 Jean-Luc Dehaene, the man in charge of implementing UEFA’s financial fair play regulations, was due in London last week to speak at the Leaders in Football conference. Sadly, he had to cry off. The Franco-Belgian bank of which he is chairman was going skint. Again.

The Belgian arm of the total catastrophe that is Dexia, Dehaene’s bank, was nationalised on Monday. Prior to resigning — he will remain chairman of Dexia Group’s other interests — Dehaene announced a £3.45billion bailout by the Belgian government.

This is in addition to the £5.18bn Dexia needed to stay in business in 2008. Never forget, this is the man who could be banning your club from European competition if he thinks they are living beyond their means.

Imagine placing Sir Fred ‘the Shred’ Goodwin, former chief executive officer of the Royal Bank of Scotland, in charge of governance at the Football Association and you get the idea. That’s why you never get a good farce in the West End these days. Michel Platini and the boys at UEFA have nicked all the best plot lines.

Financial muddle: The multi-faceted Jean-Luc Dehaene is in charge of implementing FIFA's Fair Play regulations

Financial muddle: The multi-faceted Jean-Luc Dehaene is in charge of implementing FIFA's Fair Play regulations


Dexia was the result of a 1996 merger between Credit Local de France and Credit Communal de Belgique, the biggest municipal lenders in their respective countries.

‘Dexia accumulated the worst errors,’ says Francois Chaulet of Montsegur Finance in Paris. ‘They were the experts of municipal lending but by getting late into businesses they weren’t able to handle, like securitisation and bond insurance in the United States, they bought all that others didn’t want to buy.’

This isn’t the FT, I know, so I’ll keep it basic. In 2008, Dexia needed a gigantic bailout to remain in business, at which point Dehaene arrived.

Known as ‘the plumber’ during his time as Prime Minister of Belgium, due to his ability to resolve crises, this time he appears to have drilled through the main standpipe.

Dexia remains in danger of becoming the first European bank to fall victim to the Eurozone debt crisis and its stock is in freefall.

The man who will tell European football clubs how to run their businesses saw a share value drop of 42 per cent as concerns grew that his bank would be broken up in a final desperate attempt to keep it afloat. Since the 2008 bailout and Dehaene’s arrival, its stock has plunged more than 90 per cent.

The Belgian government picked up the tab second time around, paying £3.45bn for Dexia Banque Belgique’s consumer lending division. There remains all manner of speculation about who will pounce on other arms of the company, including a Qatari sovereign wealth fund, who bought Dexia Banque Internationale, a profitable retail and private banking unit based in Luxembourg.

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How intriguing should Dehaene rule on Manchester City’s use of Arab wealth, which incurs no actual debt, while being happily party to investment from the region to help save Dexia’s skin.

The scale of this crisis cannot be overestimated. Bluntly, if Dexia goes down, so does Europe. Its balance sheet, with total assets of around £446.9bn in June, is roughly the size of the entire banking system in Greece, and larger than the combined assets of all financial institutions bailed out in Ireland.

Dexia has £2.9bn exposure to Greek government bonds and roughly four times that commitment in Italy. Dexia Credit Local’s portfolio includes £18.1bn in Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Irish sovereign debt, which has understandably caused widespread panic and the collapse of short-term funding.

Still, nobody can doubt Dehaene’s expertise in how not to run a business. There is most certainly a lot that football could learn from him on that.

It could be argued, of course, that Dehaene took on an impossible job; that Dexia was a basket case enterprise before he arrived and he merely failed to resolve its enormous difficulties.

Certainly, it is no easy task  taking charge of a bank that  has needed bailing out in the billions. Yet even in Belgium, Dehaene is not without his critics.

Paul de Grauwe, a member of the economic advisory group to Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, said: ‘Jean-Luc Dehaene and Pierre Mariani, the chief executive officer, are responsible for the fiasco at Dexia and it is only logical that they will resign. It is dangerous to speculate, to gamble with the money of ordinary citizens. The big problem is that Dexia abandoned traditional banking and started speculating to earn more. That ended miserably.’

Speculating? Gambling? Taking a punt with money you haven’t really got? Not the bold champion of financial fair play, surely? Or maybe in banking different rules apply.

Still, never mind. When Platini’s committee to assess financial fairness meets, Dehaene, as a refugee from an economy that has gone melons up, will fit right in. Perhaps he could discuss those nasty Greek government bonds with Petros Mavroidis, a lawyer from Thessaloniki, who will also assess financial fair play. Powerful, wealthy, well-connected — often to each other — UEFA have chosen their club overseers well.

Take Johan Lokhorst, from Holland. He is currently a director of various food groups, including Lotus Bakeries (£22.9m in debt, but don’t let that stop him telling everybody else how to do it). Lotus are a Belgian-Dutch company specialising in caramelised and pepparkakor biscuits, gingerbread, cake specialties and waffles.

What does he know of football? Who can say, but he certainly knows his fellow board member, Jean-Luc Dehaene. So that’s nice.

Assembling quite a team: Michel Platini

Assembling quite a team: Michel Platini

Then there is Yves Wehrli from France, a managing partner on the media and entertainment team of global law firm Clifford Chance.

He recently advised the French Football Federation on their successful bid to host the 2016 European Championship (UEFA president when the bid was won, Michel Platini), this after doing six years of legal work for the organising committee of the 1998 World Cup (held in France, joint head of committee, Michel Platini) and aiding the Lagardere group with the £745.8m acquisition of Sportfive (legal adviser at Lagardere, Laurent Platini, son of Michel Platini).

It goes on. There are two men who helped author the Independent European Sport Review in 2006, which is seen as the precursor to financial fair play (page 83, paragraph 5.27, Cost Controls, if you’re interested). One is Jacobo Beltran, a right-wing politician from Madrid — so no big clubs that might need looking after there, thankfully — the other is Egon Franck, a German professor of economics at the University of Zurich, so at least he won’t have far to travel for meetings.

It must be hard getting nine people from a continent with a population of 731m that are not connected to Platini personally or in charge of a bank that’s gone bust, so UEFA have our sympathy there.

English football is represented by Brian Lomax OBE, former chairman of Supporters Direct and the man who helped form the first supporters trust, to help save his club, Northampton Town — but obviously the board cannot be made up purely of dedicated souls like that. Not when there are so many hard-up bankers with mates who sell biscuits that need to be involved.

Johnson's right, you cannot blame RFU for this balls-up

Not much went right for England at the Rugby World Cup, but at least Martin Johnson had the good sense not to make the turmoil at the RFU part of any excuse.

England were not 16-0 down to France at half-time in Auckland because Johnson did not have a line manager. Nobody missed a tackle, or gave away a needless penalty, because a collection of faceless suits couldn’t get their ducks in a row.

One of Sir Alex Ferguson’s masterstrokes as Manchester United manager is his continued refusal to engage in the divisions between club and supporters over the Glazers.

His lack of recognition for the green and gold movement did not endear him to the fans, but he knew it was absolutely necessary if United were to succeed.

To express concern would have given his players an excuse for defeat; by largely acting as if the protests were irrelevant, Ferguson ensured his team stayed focused.

Decent exit strategy: Martin Johnson has refused to play the blame game

Decent exit strategy: Martin Johnson has refused to play the blame game with the RFU

The RFU are dysfunctional, no doubt about that, and the idea of presenting reviews to a management board whose make-up is a mystery is laughable; but that is not why England failed in New Zealand.

‘A lot of the players wouldn’t even know what is going on at the RFU,’ said Johnson, and he is right. Credit to him for refusing to blame a lack of support, too.

‘The RFU have been fantastic,’ he said. ‘I think there is this feeling that there is something dark and sinister there always waiting to jump out.

‘That is not the case. Everyone has been really supportive and in no way has it affected our World Cup.’

It is easy to highlight the failings of English sporting institutions; one only has to think of the hours politicians waste wittering on about governance at the Football Association. The fact remains, however, that players play.

England have returned prematurely from New Zealand for many reasons, but a lack of clarity around the role of performance director is not among them.

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

The real problem is that Journalists like youself have also not been doing your job properly. Instead of writing articles every week that we know about why not do some real investigative work which you could have started months ago when for example the Man City issue with Sponsorship came to light. Instead you write articles about all sports of which I am sure You cannot be an expert in them all and just like the Business people you have slated everyone is trying to keep too man balls in the air when just the one good one would suffice.

Click to rate     Rating   3

With the same high ticket prices as other major tournaments, but with only a population of 4million no wonder there are Rugby World Cup games not sold out. Couple that with the fact that the rugby-mad city of Christchurch was not able to host any rugby; 2 being quarter-finals (one being the NZ quarter-final). These quarter-finals would have sold out without a doubt. Instead they were added to Auckland, the biggest city in NZ with only 1million people which was already hosting most of the big games giving a small population even more rugby through which to spread their limited money. All 4million people cannot afford to buy tickets and for such a small population to host as successful a major tournament as this has been so far is remarkable. The London Metropolitan area by itself has over 3 times the population of the whole of NZ. UK= 14 times as many people as NZ. NZ loves rugby. A country of 63million selling out one stadium for a one off Champions League final hardly compares.

Click to rate     Rating   2

WIll be interesting to see what comes from FFP, because it is a joke, run by jokes. Who are UEFA to tell a PRIVATE BUSINESS how that business should be run? Also, their "mandate" is not really even a mandate, but rather a "you need to do better or else we will have to tell you again to do better!" The first time UEFA does not allow a national champion into the Champions League, UEFA will be bankrupted by the lawsuit. I just hope it is Sheikh Mansour who files it, as he has done more for football and the greater community surrounding his club than ANYONE in world football in recent years. What a bunch of fools we have running world football, and especially in Europe, where Blatter and Platini are corrupt fools led by the nose by their corporate benefactors like Heineken, Sony, MacDonalds and Coca Cola!

Click to rate     Rating   30

An article from Geoff Capes that doesn't slate Arsenal somewhere? Maybe you just haven't posted it all yet eh Samuels and teh update is due later?

Click to rate     Rating   34

Excellent article on the UEFA FFP committee etc , I am sure if we forwarded the article to UEFA it would be shredded immediately - seems like UEFA are becoming the new FIFA. I always thought Platini was a football man, not a politician, how wrong I was : bring back Lenhardt Johansson !

Click to rate     Rating   40

God bless the Kiwis for not turning up. New Zealand is now the best place on earth to watch test match cricket. I was there to see England last time they toured and it was wonderful; half empty provincial grounds, you can take coolers in and deck chairs and wonder around at will unfettered by bossy security men and best of all - hardly a speck of high vis to spoil the view. It was like Scarborough but with better players. I know test matches are a bit different from most sporting encounters but for old fogies like me a bit of elbow room and a relaxed atmosphere is just the job. Good column, by the way, I thought the stuff on UEFA was brilliantly researched.

Click to rate     Rating   27

TICKET PRICES: Your comments are valid, but wrong, if any country should be hosting any sporting event, it should be the USA they appriciate sport more that we do. Can you see crowds of 100,000 at a ladies world cup football (soccer to them) semi final and final in England, I cant but they had that sort of crowd in the US. Look at the Football World cup they hosted or, any American Football (NFL) all sell outs, they even sell out with crowds of 50,000+ for College Football games, Oxford and Cambridge have to rent a crowd. Yes we will pay through the nose for tickets to see World Cups and International matches but only to a point. The Yanks god bless them will always pay for anything that sounds like World Competition, they if they hosted the Rugby World cup they would sell out every game not just the Quarters, Semi's, and Final.

Click to rate     Rating   17

"England have returned prematurely from New Zealand" no they haven't. they lost to a better team on the day. what makes you say they've returned prematurely?

Click to rate     Rating   29

I always enjoy reading your column, but you are way of target regarding AV; he needs to win 15 consecutive Champions league titles.

Click to rate     Rating   20

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