The Ibrox Illiterati will be foaming at the mouth today at the news that Peter Lawwell has won election to the prestigious European Club Association executive board for the second time. This is a huge moment for him and for the club, and for the clubs at small associations all over European football.
The ECA is the ultimate pressure group, and Lawwell’s long-term involvement in it has paid off at a time when our influence is more needed than ever.
In dealing with UEFA the ECA board holds all the cards.
They are the ones who lobby for UEFA reforms which end up in the big clubs sucking up all the cream.
They are also the only organisation who can change that.
It is hugely important that Celtic has a voice here, and that they use this voice well. Lawwell is respected by other chairmen, which means that we are respected. When real change to comes to European football – the sort that results in a genuine European Super League – it will be driven by those clubs who’s profile is high enough and who’s strategy is sound enough to be taken seriously, and as it has long been, we are one of those clubs.
European football cannot run in the way it has been.
The huge clubs have too much influence and money already; there are two ways this can go.
Either the sport restructures in a way that gives them what they want as well as providing enough so that ambitious clubs and well run clubs like ourselves can genuinely move up – and that means a UEFA Super League of sort – or they will break away to play against each other four times a season.
If it’s the first option we’ll be part of it, because we’ve got the fundamentals right. We’ve proved ourselves in the way that counts best; we’ve followed the rules and we’ve built something that can last. Nothing we’ve done has been frivolous or short-sighted.
If it’s the second option (it won’t be) well we’re set up to do well in that too. If the so-called big clubs want to drift off and do their own thing I don’t know why we’re holding them back from that. They won’t do it with UEFA’s rubber stamp, their players will be restricted from international football and UEFA and FIFA will fight tooth and nail to strip away all the protections they enjoy from competition law, contracts law, employment law and a raft of others.
Sponsors may follow them, but the market has always been bigger than those clubs and I wonder if it would be as easy to create something new as they think. UEFA will learn the lessons from the things the English FA failed to consider. They will not support something that further fragments European football. It will re-arrange the rest of the sport around the clubs who are left, and support them however it can. See who’s still standing when the music stops.
I’ve long believed this “breakaway European league” thing was a phantom anyway. There’s no way, for example, that the EPL would voluntarily go head to head with UEFA and risk their standing. They would never agree to the setting up of a rival club run league system which would suck all money towards it and away from them. The same applies to La Liga and the other top flights who are awash in cash and who don’t want to rock the boat quite that hard.
Something run with UEFA’s rubber stamp protects the integrity of their domestic leagues, and they know it full well.
Lawwell knows it too, and he can play the long game with the best of them.
Because he knows those clubs will bend. He knows they will not adopt “all or nothing” policies. And so there are gains to be made, gains which will benefit Celtic.
The news of his appointment benefits Celtic and don’t let anyone kid you about it. Whilst he’s there he’s there to represent our club, not Scottish football as a whole. Other Scottish clubs are represented; they can look out for themselves in this particular forum.
The idea, which the press has been pushing, that he is a man on a mission to protect Scottish clubs in Europe is ridiculous; those clubs have no interest in protecting themselves and you can see that in the way they’ve refused to take FFP seriously.
They don’t think European football reform is a subject worth their time or effort.
Let’s face it, they haven’t bothered to try and reform the game here in Scotland, why would the bigger picture interest them?
Lawwell knows who and what he represents.
But this isn’t to say concessions we get will not benefit other teams … they will. And they will benefit other leagues. Which is why he was elected to this position in the first place. In striking a blow for Celtic he is also striking one for Ajax and Feynoord and Rosenborg and those other clubs on the periphery of European football’s goldmines.
All of this spells Bad News for Sevco … and that’s why their fans will not like this news at all.
We are always told that the ECA is one of the organisations that “recognises” the Survival Lie.
It’s actually not entirely true; they gave Sevco “associate membership”, not full membership. This distinction is largely missing in the gushing of their supporters who never tire of reminding us that Rangers was a “founder member” when the ECA was formed out of the G14.
Those days are long gone.
Sevco’s fans like to tell you that the ECA recognises the history, but they always leave out the part about the Association being fully conversant with objective reality; Sevco emerged from a liquidation, and has an “associate membership” instead of the full one Rangers died with. Associate memberships were also handed to Aberdeen and Hearts. Motherwell, and, of course Celtic, are full or “ordinary” members.
We’ve been sitting at that table a long time now.
And this is the ultimate slap in the face to the Sevconuts.
They are so far away from having any real influence in football outside of Scotland that their club might as well not even exist.
Lawwell’s place on the ECA board comes just in time for us to find out what the new raft of changes at UEFA means to our Champions League spot … as a former winner, as a club who’s co-efficient is way ahead of the national average, I suspect we’ll like what we find when the changes in those areas are announced.
If you watched the recent Champions League draw you’ll have seen Russian and Ukranian teams represented as top seeds in the Groups; not for them a fraught qualification campaign. This is not because of their own endevours but because of a national co-efficient system that rewards them because their countries have qualified for World Cups and Euros and stuff … changes in that sphere are long overdue.
If we get our own individual seeding and the national associations lose theirs it’s not impossible that we’ll get a Group spot automatically.
And Sevco’s nuts will cry foul.
They will see in it the continued progress of the Unseen Hand.
They will see Lawwell’s election and any change that comes from it as part of a conspiracy, and in a way that’s exactly what it is. Because what else do you call it when a group of like-minded individuals striving for their own benefit and that of the organisations they represent, turns around and plans everyone else’s future?
That’s a conspiracy.
There’s just no doubt about it.
The thing is, it’s not a conspiracy to deprive Sevco out of its due, as some of them will doubtless declare. Because they’re due nothing. Because not one person on the ECA board ever sits down at a single meeting to decide how best to screw an ailing Scottish NewCo with nothing but an infamous name.
At that table, Sevco are simply not relevant at all.
They were just beaten by a team from Luxembourg.
Europe’s footballing giants do not get automatic news alerts for every statement out of Ibrox.
The short-to-medium term future of European football will be played out at ECA board meetings over the next few months, and I understand why it galls the Peepul that one of our directors will be on that board and theirs won’t … but then we run a professional football club and they don’t.