Platini driven by love of the game

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PARIS, March 21- Michel Platini, who on Tuesday will be re-elected unopposed as president of UEFA for a second term, says that he is motivated by a desire to protect the game and not by a thirst for power.

The Frenchman, 55, was first elected in 2007 and his reforms have included the democratisation of the flagship Champions League tournament and new ‘financial fair play’ rules obliging European clubs to break even.

"Power has no glamour at all," Platini told AFP on Sunday.

"The only bit of glamour is when people recognise me, not because I am the UEFA president but because I was a footballer and I moved them in some way.

"The weight of responsibility is protecting the game. For me, football is only a game.

"When an American goes to a big English club to invest money, I’m not sure he knows that’s it a game, but it’s the game that will decide whether it works for him or not.

"As long as we keep the game, with its passion, we will have won. It’s the only globally popular sport."

Under the financial fair play rules, from the 2014-15 season onwards UEFA will be able to exclude clubs from the Champions League if they have not balanced their books.

Asked if he would be prepared to punish some of the world’s most glamorous clubs in such a manner, Platini replied: "With pleasure. No worries about that.

"We’re setting these rules together, the whole footballing world. The clubs have had four years to prepare themselves.

"And financial fair play isn’t only that. We’ll have access to the (clubs’) accounts. We’ll be able to say: ‘Here’s a transfer fee that’s not been paid to a club, it has to be done.’

"And there are lots of possible sanctions before exclusion, like banning clubs from recruiting (new players), for example.

"We have to put the financial fair play rules in place because at the moment it’s a financial catastrophe. In 2009, European clubs had deficits of 1.2 billion euros ($1.7 billion)."

Another key element of Platini’s original manifesto was the elimination of violence involving supporters and he took aim at Serbia and Croatia to illustrate that the battle was far from won.

"The sword of Damocles is hanging over Serbia and Croatia," he said.

"We’ve given them a year to show that they’re doing things to improve security, otherwise we’ll take them out of international competitions.

"We can no longer accept that in 900 matches, there will be 200 in which serious incidents occur."

Making reference to 28-year-old Toulouse fan Brice Taton, killed by hooligans from Serbian club Partizan Belgrade in September 2009, Platini said: "The killing of young Taton, that’s enough. That’s enough!

"Either you assume your responsibilities, or you stay at home."

The second term of Platini’s tenure at the head of European football’s governing body will include the 2012 European Championships in Poland and Ukraine.

UEFA have on numerous occasions expressed concerns about Ukraine’s readiness to co-host the tournament and Platini admitted that UEFA may have erred in awarding the right to host the event to the financially imperilled country.

When asked if he would be worried until the day before the opening match, Platini joked: "No, until the final!"

He added: "But what else can we do? We gave it to them. It was perhaps an error to have given it to them, but we gave it to them.

"It’s a great challenge: Ukraine is not Germany and is in a time of crisis.

"But it will be good, the people who go there will have a great time. And, unlike the World Cup in South Africa, it will be very warm and it will be festive."

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