Soccer: Club vs country rift brewing

By Mark Fleming

Europe's leading clubs appear to be squaring up for a showdown with world governing body Fifa over the £2.6bn ($NZ5.5bn) profit made from the World Cup, with the clubs demanding a greater share of the massive windfall.

The president of the European Clubs Association, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, yesterday described the £26m ($NZ55.5m) Fifa paid to the clubs for the players who competed in South Africa in the summer as woefully insufficient.

He also called on Fifa to pay compensation to those clubs whose players returned injured.

His vice-chairman Umberto Gandini even described the situation as "exploitation". Rummenigge said: "The total income made by Fifa in a World Cup is thanks to our players, paid by our clubs. I believe it is quite fair that we take a certain part of the big cake.

"The cake is always getting bigger and bigger, we're not speaking about millions, we're speaking about billions and I ask Fifa as an act of solidarity to take the risk of this insurance policy."

Fifa refused to comment last night but sources at the federation pointed out that all European clubs including Bayern Munich, where Rummenigge is chairman, had signed an agreement in February 2008 over the thorny issue of compensation.

The ECA, involving 197 clubs, replaced the G14 group, and agreed to share in the profits of future tournaments in exchange for the clubs dropping the threat of legal action over player injuries. The clubs' share was set at $US40m ($NZ55m) for the 2010 World Cup, and $US70m ($NZ97m) for the 2014 World Cup.

However the sight of the perennially injured Arjen Robben returning to Munich with a knock sustained in South Africa has tipped Rummenigge over the edge.

The Bayern chairman said: "For releasing Arjen Robben, I heard we will get something like A57,000 (£48,000) from this $US40m pot but it [his salary] costs many times more. We believe it is the right moment for Fifa and Uefa to care about our players; it is no longer acceptable that we have to give up our players, taking the risk in cases of injuries, then the players come back and we still have to pay the salaries."

ECA vice chairman Gandini said the Fifa contribution was a token gesture. Milan director Gandini said: "Now we realise the exploitation of our players is always there by the national associations. It is weird that we should be responsible for the insurance."

Rummenigge claimed he met with Uefa president Michel Platini on Monday and said the talks had been positive. "We are now very optimistic that we can find a solution with Uefa regarding the insurance policy," he said.

Rummenigge also took issue with the international fixture list. "We have decided that we will intervene much more in the future in the international match calendar," he said.

"The August friendly date is nonsense, especially in a year where the players are coming back from a World Cup."

Fifa said all friendly dates are down to national associations, not Fifa.

- THE INDEPENDENT

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