The Run of Play is a blog about
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We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.

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Belated News from Biarritz

Actually there’s not any news from Biarritz, which is why, apart from a bit of triumphalist posturing by Gerry Sutcliffe, the story about the wicked French plot to desecrate English football slithered out of the papers before the meetings had even gotten underway. The word I’ve received from people connected to the conference is that the fear-mongering pieces in the Times and Telegraph were essentially mouthpieces for the Premier League, while the meetings themselves were bureaucratic exercises that were seen as pointless even by the diplomats participating in them.

I’ve also learned that the Guardian‘s David Conn was at the meetings and didn’t see anything worth writing about, which, given Conn’s expertise on issues like these, probably tells you all you need to know.

The wide gap between the shrill opinionating before the conference and the general quiet after it suggests to me that the Premier League, probably unsurprisingly, wants the English public to stay good and hostile to proposals like the ones discussed at Biarritz, even if, as was the case this time, there’s no real chance of them passing.

This time, Sepp Blatter’s pitch on the 6+5 rule got a cold reception from the EU sports ministers at the meetings, more or less as expected, and Michel Platini’s proposal banning the transfer of players under 18 was tabled for further legal study. In the meantime, all reference to the idea of a central regulatory agency for club finances was expunged from the joint declaration finally signed by the ministers, which went on for a while in this tone

encourage further discussion on initiatives put forward by international federations to encourage the teams… to develop the presence of athletes capable of qualifying for national teams, in compliance with EU law

—and will be played by a trombone with a wa-wa mute in next year’s UEFA Halloween cartoon.

I’m personally skeptical about all of these proposals (I mean the concrete ones, not the cozy bits about fostering dialogue initiatives) so I should probably be relieved that they’re still fatally strung up in EU law. But at the moment, I’m just as irritated by the Yeoman Warder lingo of the proposals’ opponents, who, when they’ve addressed the meetings at all, have managed to conjure themselves into the middle of a light operetta about guarding the crown jewels:

It was not quite Agincourt, but 500 miles away across France in Biarritz, Great Britain and her allies repulsed a French assault on the independence of the national game — for now.

Ah, yes, for now. The issues involved in these proposals really are fascinating: the national character of football teams; the relation of sport, community, and business. But they touch on so many easily exploitable prejudices, and the prejudices have so readily been exploited—Platini has repeatedly compared youth football transfers to child slavery—that we may need a break from the for now contingent before we can think about them usefully again.

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Belated News from Biarritz

by Brian Phillips · December 4, 2008

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