The business of the beautiful game British Swiss Chamber of Commerce luncheon with Gianni Infantino, General Secretary of UEFA

Issue: Issue1 2014
For Gianni Infantino, the best football match he ever saw on an emotional level was the semifinal of the World Cup between Italy and Germany in 2006. For pure skills, it was the Champions League 2011 final in Wembley between Manchester United ("a great team") and Barcelona ("a team from another planet").

And the best football player ever? Michel Platini. This answer raised a laugh at the BSCC luncheon held in Geneva last November. Michel Platini, former French footballer player and manager and now President of UEFA is, after all, guest speaker Mr Infantino's boss.

He was at the luncheon to speak about the current state and business of the Beautiful Game. The timing couldn't have been better. Coming one day after BT Sport announced they had won the rights to broadcast live Champions League and Europa League football matches from 2015, not surprisingly the issue of money and football quickly entered into the conversation. Mr Infantino began by presenting the audience with a variety of facts and figures about the business side of European football. He cited Arsenal as a good example of a club that had made wise investment choices in their new stadium, enabling them to attract supporters and generate high revenues for the club. He also remarked that because Barcelona had invested in its youth academy, they had built a good team, had made very few transfers and thus created a stable home grown squad who could play "with their eyes closed". He also discussed the new "financial fair play" rules recently implemented on clubs, a consequence of UEFA focusing on the financial health of the clubs and the game in general.


After a short break for the main course, Mr Infantino returned to the podium and addressed a question on match fixing. He referred to the recent action taken by UEFA after irregular betting was spotted in Armenia during a match between the Faero Islands and Finland, with an Armenian referee. Asked about the characteristics of UEFA and how it has more or less kept out of the controversies embroiling other sports organisations, his reply was "good governance". During further discussion around the need to change the calendar of the European schedules due to the World Cup finals in Qatar in 2022, he said, "It's an issue, but if we have to do this once every 150 years it's not the end of the world."

Further questions on capping footballers' salaries, the power of football agents, the role of corporate and social responsibility played in UEFA's remit, and investment in women's football ended this interesting session. The table conversation was lively, as most people have an opinion on football and their own team. When Mr Infantino asked the audience which team had played the best football in the last five years, there was understandably some debate!

The hotel had replaced their white table linen with a green tablecloth replete with a circle of AstroTurf. With a mini football as decoration (although just ten people were around each table, not enough for a team) this was a nice touch that made the event a winner.

Author: Catherine Nelson-Pollard

Catherine is a British writer, editor and broadcaster and she lives in Nyon in the Canton of Vaud. She writes about expatriate issues for various UK and Swiss publications. She writes a weekly column in La Côte newspaper and has published a book called "Living along Lac Léman". The book is a collection of these columns and is a light hearted living along the shores of Lake Geneva. She also runs her own website featuring, articles, interviews and updates on living in the Nyon, Morges, Coppet and surrounding areas.

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