UEFA threatens dissident clubs with exclusion

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BUDAPEST, Mar 23 (Reuters) Clubs participating in European competitions could soon be asked to declare their support for the sport's administrators or face exclusion.

The proposal was made at the UEFA Congress today when European soccer's governing body sought new ways to tackle the perceived threat of the G14 group of wealthy clubs.

''One action we could take when inviting clubs into UEFA competitions would be to make the invitations conditional upon those clubs agreeing on the principal of our sporting structures,'' UEFA CEO Lars-Christer Olsson suggested.

Since UEFA issues those invitations via the various national associations, rather than to the clubs directly, Olsson said it would be up to the associations to ensure that teams signed these documents ''without reservations''.

Thomas Kurth, general-secretary of G14, said: ''We will be discussing this with our member clubs.'' He declined to comment further on Olsson's statement.

Earlier, the 52 national associations had unanimously approved a resolution that formalised their opposition to G14, vowing to defend the sport's interests in the face of recent challenges from ''a self-appointed group of clubs''.

''Football is about fairness, opportunity, excitement and variety,'' insisted the resolution, which was brought to the Congress by UEFA's Executive Committee.

''It is not a closed shop, where only the richest and most powerful are invited to the table.'' The group, comprising 18 European clubs including Real Madrid, Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Juventus, is pitted against UEFA, world governing body FIFA and the national associations in a court case in Charleroi, Belgium.

G14 wants the regulations surrounding the compulsory release of players for international matches changed and clubs to be compensated if players are injured playing for their countries.

It also wants executive representation within UEFA and more cash from the game's governing bodies as well as from the European Championship and World Cup. It has denied it wants to set up a breakaway elite league in Europe.

''SELF-INTERESTED'' While not naming G14 explicitly, the UEFA resolution said: ''The self-appointed group of clubs are not interested in protecting competition, but only interested in protecting themselves and their economic interests and in dictating their conditions on others.'' In a speech to the Congress ahead of today vote, UEFA president Lennart Johansson argued that G14 was looking to ''flout the fundamental principles of democracy by pompously proclaiming themselves to be 'the voice of the clubs'.'' In passing the resolution, UEFA said it would defend the right of smaller clubs to participate in European competitions, fight to maintain the current rules on the international release of players and defend the central marketing structure of its lucrative Champions League competition.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter, attending the conference as a guest, thanked the associations for their backing at what he called ''a somewhat critical time for world football''.

''Everything that happens in European football has an influence on global football,'' Blatter added. ''Can you conceive football without the national teams or the national associations? It would mean the collapse of the whole pyramid of football because of the elitism of a few.'' Reuters PDS RS2113

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