On the one hand, banning one of world soccer’s most boring international teams might give spectators a bit of relief. On the other hand: democracy.
In the latest episode of Team Blatter: World Police, FIFA and UEFA are threatening Greece with suspension from international competitions because of government interference in violation of their rules.
Of course, no one wants politicians to start telling coaches who they can pick. But in this instance, the Greek government is reacting to a hooliganism problem by proposing anti-violence laws. That’s what governments do: govern. To make their people safer. Pretty much their primary function, in fact.
But the plan – which calls for fines, match postponements or even withdrawals – has attracted the ire of the soccer governing bodies for supposedly exerting third-party influence on the federation.
So, just to be clear, two essentially opaque and unaccountable Swiss organizations are telling an elected government in the country that invented democracy not to pass laws designed at protecting the population from violence, because apparently FIFA and UEFA rules should take priority over Greek law.
Even though combating Europe’s rising tide of violence is a topic which UEFA president Michel Platini described only last month as a top priority, calling for “tougher stadium bans at European level” which this bill would seem to deliver.
And asking for help from public authorities: “In these battles that we are fighting, we feel as if we have been left to fend for ourselves somewhat. And yet, these are battles that can only be won with the help of the public authorities. You are not, we are not legislators, judges or police officers. We do what we can with the means – the limited means – available to us.”
But, just as during World Cups, when special “fast-track” courts are set up, temporary laws passed and tax havens established, soccer’s governing bodies like to be lawmakers unto themselves. And help from government has to be on their own terms, even if the continued existence of violence and corruption problems in Europe would seem to be a pretty strong indicator that the current, UEFA-led system of punishments has failed.
“We need… the creation of a European sports police force,” Platini said last month. Let’s hope no one gives him a sheriff’s badge.