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Soccer

European football more divided than during Cold War?

A FIFA presidential candidate has lashed out against the unequal distribution of wealth among the continent's clubs. He argued that European football was now more divided than it ever was during the Cold War.

FIFA presidential candidate Jerome Champagne said on Wednesday that, during the Cold War, football was able to unite a deeply divided continent - with next to nothing preventing clubs from either side of the Iron Curtain playing together.

"In 2014, in a Europe where the Berlin Wall has fallen and which most of its citizens can criss-cross freely, clubs from the West and the East do not play football together any longer at the top level," Champagne maintained in a third part of his manifesto. He added that the political divide had, in the past two decades, been replaced with a financial separation.

The former French diplomat, who had held senior posts at FIFA until 2010, spoke of a two-speed football with an increasingly unbridgeable gap between the ultra-elite of the wealthiest clubs and the "remaining 99 percent."

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Champagne recalled Hungarian side Videoton reaching the 1984-85 UEFA Cup final, beating Manchester United and Real Madrid on the way, and Romania's Steaua Bucharest beating Barcelona in the European Cup final a year later, concluding that would no longer be possible nowadays.

"Countries which were previously competitive at club level now see their teams relegated to a position of talent producers for the wealthiest ones," he commented.

Champagne called on UEFA to reform the current system of money distribution which he said reinforced the imbalance of an already uneven playing field. He also proposed a luxury tax and training compensation to be paid to smaller clubs as well as changes to the way television money was distributed.

"The current situation does not pit Europe against the rest of the world as was the case some decades ago," he quipped, arguing it merely reflected a split between the one percent at the top and the rest of the clubs.

hg/rc (Reuters, SID)

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