Platini urges lawmakers to back national teams

GRAHAM DUNBAR AP Sports Writer Published:

GENEVA (AP) -- UEFA President Michel Platini urged European lawmakers on Thursday to help protect national teams from "selfish behavior" from clubs that prevents players representing their country.

Platini told sports ministers that national teams "are experiencing difficult times" despite being part of Europe's cultural heritage.

"Their legitimacy is undermined by the reluctance of some to release players," said the former France great, who promised last year to make support for national teams a central theme of his second four-year term in office.

Platini's speech at a meeting called by the 47-nation Council of Europe in Belgrade, Serbia, appears to challenge clubs who want UEFA and FIFA to reduce their players' international obligations.

"I am convinced that selfish behaviour must be replaced by dignified legal solutions. This is the next task at hand," Platini said.

He praised world and European champion Spain for having "taken the necessary step" in the face of uncertainty for international football.

"(Spain) has established the compulsory release of national team players as a principle in its national legislation," Platini said. "Such an initiative proves one thing: that it is possible to put an end to this problem."

Platini made his speech days before signing a peace accord with the European Club Association, which guarantees their working relationship through May 2018.

As part of the pact to be signed when its annual congress is held in Istanbul next Thursday, UEFA has promised clubs a "substantial" increase on a previously agreed share of €55 million ($72 million) from 2012 European Championship revenues.

UEFA will increase the clubs' share again at Euro 2016, with the money paid on a daily rate for as long as a player in involved in the tournament.

Platini also called on sports ministers to back him in fighting match-fixing and reckless spending by top clubs.

He said an international convention was required to tackle match-fixing by organized crime syndicates, which caused "tremendous fear" and "must be outlawed."

"Europe can and must take the lead because it is a role model that others will follow," Platini said, describing a convention as "an indispensable step" toward greater integrity in sport.

Match-fixing is already a criminal offense in some European countries, including Italy and Turkey where alleged corruption is being prosecuted.

Platini asked lawmakers to protect his "Financial Fair Play" rules, designed to regulate clubs' spending at break-even levels, from legal challenges.

"The task before us is already daunting," Platini warned. "But we cannot ignore certain questions: in particular, what would happen if financial fair play were declared unlawful by some rebellious or resentful court?

"I am asking you to replace dangerous uncertainties with legal solutions."