Sutcliffe claims victory for Prem independence
Sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe has claimed a significant victory in ensuring Premier League clubs' independence from Europe.
Sutcliffe emerged from a meeting of European sports ministers in Biarritz today having forced his French counterpart Bernard Laporte to remove any reference in the joint statement calling for a European-wide 'super-regulator' of football.
The Premier League feared such a move would lead to UEFA interfering in domestic clubs' finances.
Sutcliffe said: ''It has been very successful. Everything we wanted to be withdrawn from the ministerial statement has been so we are very pleased with that.
''There is nothing in there now about the regulation of clubs as far as Europe is concerned. That is now a matter for UEFA to discuss with clubs.''
Sutcliffe said the regulation issue had been a distraction from the real importance of securing special status for sport within European law.
However, UEFA president Michel Platini told sports ministers the organisation still needed the power to introduce rules on finances for clubs in their own European competitions.
Platini said the game's European ruling body had no intention of interfering with rules for domestic leagues but wanted to ensure ''financial fair play'' in their own competitions such as the Champions League and UEFA Cup.
If such as move was agreed it could eventually mean that clubs such as Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool who regularly qualify for the Champions Leagues would have to satisfy UEFA rules on debts and even how much they spend on wages.
Platini said: ''What UEFA can do - and we are thinking seriously about doing it - is to reinforce and improve our system for granting licences for our own club competitions.
''It is in this way that we wish to contribute to financial fair play, and start responding to the expectations of the various parties involved in our sport.''
Platini also called for a halt to the trafficking of young footballers, and a ban on transfers of players under the age of 18 - the Premier League also opposes the latter proposal.
Platini said: ''Today, in the world and in Europe, there is trafficking of children. I will not mince my words because the situation is serious. What else do you call a phenomenon whereby children aged 12 or 13 are torn away from their environment and culture to join a business in return for payment? This is what is happening in football.
''Together with FIFA, we are studying remedies, but measures can already be taken to ban the international transfer of minors, even within the European Union.
''In numerous European states, strict rules exist which prevent clubs - on threat of sporting sanctions - poaching [young players] from their rivals' training centres. However, these rules do not exist at European Union level.
''It is in this context that we would like to be able to ban international transfers of players under the age of 18 within the EU. This is not to create an obstacle to the free movement of labour - it is an urgent matter relating to helping youngsters in danger.''