European clubs blast FIFA

Geneva, Feb 8 (AFP) European football clubs voiced strongopposition to talk of a winter World Cup and criticised theway world governing body FIFA has been handling changes infootball.

"The time for monopolies is over. Football needsdemocracy and transparency," said European Club Associationchairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

"ECA members agree that all clubs must be meaningfullyinvolved in all decisions affecting club football. Now is thetime for change," Rummenigge, who is also chairman of BayernMunich, added after the 136 member association''s generalassembly here.

In a statement, the ECA expressed "its concern on the waymatters of such importance are managed by football''s worldgoverning body" and "its opposition" to the "disruption" ofmooted changes to the international fixture list including awinter World Cup.

It pointed to the sudden discovery of a FIFA decisionlast October to add eight new dates to the international matchlist in 2011 to 2014 "without any consultation" or "precisereason", despite growing warnings about player exhaustion.

"ECA is supportive of national team football but alsobelieves that player''s exhaustion through the excessive numberof games must be addressed as a top priority," it said in astatement. "Currently this is not the case."

The stance of powerful European clubs, which own many ofthe world''s top international players, added to a wave ofdiscontent with FIFA in the wake of the controversial racelate last year to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

They called for fixed rules for several seasons, a limitof one international tournament a year and a clear seven weekbreak after major international tournaments like the World Cupcontinental championships.

Clubs have repeatedly complained about the growingintensity and breadth of league, European and internationalmatches and the impact on players, as well as transfer andcommercial issues over the years.

They have gradually united with the lead of big nameclubs, forging ties with UEFA despite tensions.

But club executives feel increasingly left out of FIFA''sdecision making which they argue is now "heavily affectingclub football without the involvement of the stakeholdersconcerned".

Manchester United chief executive David Gill said thatprogress had been made in Europe.

"We have excellent dialogue with UEFA at the moment andwe hope to have that with FIFA," he told journalists.

FIFA has formed a "committee for club football" whichincludes top ECA executives like Rummenigge, Milan''s UmbertoGandini and Lyon''s Jean Michel Aulas. But Gill suggested thatthe body was "in its early stages." (AFP) CM

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