The failure of the officials to spot Thierry Henry’s handball has condemned Shay Given and his teammates to miss out on the World Cup Finals in South Africa. Will this high profile case finally provoke FIFA and UEFA into using video replays? We probably shouldn’t hold our breath.
While the tidal wave of blame has engulfed Thierry Henry and the match officials, shouldn’t it also be falling on the game’s governors for their failure to embrace technology years ago. Rugby did it with video replays of tries. Cricket did it with Hawkeye. Why can’t football let match officials have access to the same technology as a SKY pundit?
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Fifa vice-president, Jack Warner, said yesterday that wage restraint was necessary in football to ensure a “level playing field”, and a “salary cap should be introduced”. Noble sounding talk from a high ranking official that was once again offering no detail as to how it would work.
Was he suggesting that Manchester United only be allowed to pay as much as Burnley? Who knows, but it’s doubtful. Was he tacitly supporting Michel Platini’s competition destroying idea of limiting a club’s expenditure on wages and transfers to a percentage of it’s revenue? Maybe he was.
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City have become the latest Premier League side to be accused of unlawfully signing a youngster. This time it’s French club Rennes doing the accusing and Jeremy Helan the player in question.
The Independent broke the story, and FIFA have since released a statement to confirm they are investigating it:
“We can confirm that there is a case pending with Fifa’s Player Status Department involving Jeremy Helan, Stade Rennais FC and Manchester City.”
Helan, now 17,Ã‚Â joined City in February and was captain of the French U-16 side. He was a product of the Clairefontaine academy and touted as the “new Patrice Evra”, which translates as he’s young, a left-back, and French. Inevitably he was being watched by numberous clubs and Sky Sports reported in May 2008, that United had bid for him ahead of of Inter, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Newcastle and Everton.
Helan’s mother was then quoted as being happy with him moving to Manchester:
“I don’t see the difference between him being at Rennes or in Manchester as long as he is in a good environment.
“Internazionale, Newcastle, Arsenal, Real Madrid and Everton also contacted him. Money will not make his choice.
“To him, Manchester offers the best career path.”
However, she did acknowledge a dispute over the pre-contract agreement that Jeremy had signed with Rennes when he was 13.
“My son has signed a pre-contract with Rennes and we called for a specialist to look at it.”
Rennes appear to argue that if Helan played for the French youth team, which he did, then he would be tied to them. Helan disagrees, and believes he was free to sign for City (who he subsequently chose ahead of all the other clubs) after serving a period of not playing for anyone. The view from Rennes was stated by their technical director, Pierre Dreossi:
“Manchester City must now realise the consequences of their attitude in the HÃƒÂ©lan case as it is even more illegal than Kakuta.
“We have referred this to Fifa. For us it was strange to have no discussion from City and now, in the week after the Fifa declaration on Chelsea, I would hope that it will be the same thing for Manchester City. Kakuta signed up for just a possibility of a full contract. For HÃƒÂ©lan there was definitely one there, under the terms of the pre-contract agreement, because he had played for his country. Manchester United said it was not possible to negotiate with us but for City now this is dangerous, though we are not expecting a decision from Fifa for perhaps several years.”
Interestingly, one of the key things for the move to be considered above board seems to be an International Transfer Certificate (ITC), which apparently has been given, but Rennes claim was done so by mistake.
City have now announced:
“Manchester City is aware of the ongoing contractual dispute in the French Labour Courts between Jeremy Helan and Stade Rennais. The dispute between the player and the Club pre-dates any interest from Manchester City.
“Manchester City obviously cannot comment on the case until the French Judicial Process has run its course, however we are comfortable that we have acted within the rules throughout the process and in no way induced any breach of contract by Jeremy Helan.”
If the Court case finds in favour of Helan, and the ITC is legitimate, then City could be in the clear. If the court case were to go againsts Helan, then it looks like it could get messy. Given the severity of Chelsea’s punishment, and both FIFA and Michel Platini’s apparent desire to crack down on the power of the big clubs, particularly in the Premier League, then there could be the risk of similar sanctions.
A transfer ban at the moment would hurt City in particular as our squad is still evolving. While we won’t be making the same number of deals in coming transfer windows, the squad is likely to need some tweaking. If we qualify for the Champions League, then it’s almost certain that ADUG would be looking to bring in additional quality.
It’s quite possible that Chelsea will have their ban reduced, and Dreossi said Rennes were not expecting a decision from FIFA for several years. This would seem to lessen the danger of any punishment. Being banned for a single January transfer window would be a lot more manageable than a ban that included a Summer window.
The Chelsea ban came out of the blue, and the big clubs will doubtless be taking extra care in their dealings with young players from now on. The concern is that aggrieved clubs can smell money and a host of old gripes will now be taken to FIFA. Whether FIFA has deliberately instigated such a rush is intriguing.
The movement of young players has always been a dubious business and I doubt few clubs are wholly innocent. The laws vary from country to country, and the amount of money in the game encourages unscrupulous agents, who will always be looking to ‘make the deal’.
Given the extent of global scouting nowadays, there is clearly a need to tighten up the rules and make them transparent to everyone. FIFA and Platini want to do this. That’s ok as long as the rules are equal and not overly restrictive. In England a player can currently sign professional terms at 16, while there have also been requests for transfers of under 18’s to be banned. This would result in youngsters like Helan receiving some mighty 18th birthday presents, but a club like City could afford that.
Maybe the ban handed out to Chelsea is FIFA’s way of pushing the big clubs down the road of accepting their proposed changes. Others may now be willing to accept a few restrictions if they can avoid a similar draconian punishment.