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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 November 2005, 12:19 GMT
Big clubs lock horns with Fifa
By Bill Wilson
BBC News business reporter at the Soccerex conference in Dubai

AC Milan players
Clubs want compensation if players are injured on international duty

The gulf between the G14 group of rich European football clubs and world governing body Fifa appears as far apart as ever, as they struggle to resolve payments and compensation for players used in international matches.

The G14 is supporting a test case brought by Belgian club Charleroi in the European courts over a player injured on international duty.

At the Soccerex conference in Dubai, Fifa director of communications Markus Siegler and Umberto Gandini, sporting director of G14 member club AC Milan, appeared on the same platform.

And, although there was a friendly handshake to begin, the difference in opinions soon appeared.

'We want dialogue'

Charleroi lost Morocco player Abdelmajid Oulmers for eight months when he tore ligaments during a friendly against Burkina Faso, and is suing Fifa for compensation.

They are being backed in their battle by the G14, much to Fifa's fury, and a court date has been set for March 2006.

"What we do not like is if an interest group tries to solve problems through the courts - we want dialogue," declared Mr Siegler.

This is not a problem that is going to go away, the clubs have to be listened to
Umberto Gandini, AC Milan sporting director

"Our rules state that it is not allowed to go to court. There is a regulatory system within football, and we have our own Court for Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland.

"Things should not be going to outside courts."

And, in a statement aimed at the G14, which Fifa believes is going outside the set structure, he added: "We must not forget the pyramid structure, the federations are members of Fifa, and the clubs are members of federations - this is the reason why football works around the world."

Mr Siegler also revealed that a number of informal talks had been held between Fifa and the G14 to discuss a way forward on the increasing number of issues where they are failing to see eye-to-eye.

Club demands

Not only are Europe's leading clubs prepared to fight for financial compensation for players injured on international duty, they also want better recompense for releasing players to international games, including friendlies.

Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia, Paris Saint Germain, Olympique Marseille, Olympique Lyonnais, Ajax, PSV Eindhoven, Porto

At present they get nothing from Fifa for releasing players for internationals, and if players are injured their treatment is paid for from club insurance schemes.

And they also want a say in how the international calendar, including international matches, is drawn up.

"Yes, G14 is backing Charleroi in this court case," said Umberto Gandini, AC Milan's sporting director.

"But it is not just about financial compensation - it is about decision-making processes, and our concerns about this," he added.

"The football associations, federations, and Fifa itself are rapidly becoming our financial competitors.

"We employ our star players and pay their wages for 12 months, but other people are taking our employees - the players - and using them to make money, yet we are excluded from the decision-making processes."

"This is not a problem that is going to go away, the clubs have to be listened to."

'No war'

Fellow G14 club Barcelona said it also suffered when there were friendly international matches, as it meant it fewer dates when it could play money-spinning exhibition and challenge matches.

"There are lost opportunities," said its commercial and marketing director Esteve Calzada.

"But, importantly it is getting our players back from international games in the right condition."

And two other large European clubs, Chelsea and Galatasaray - which are not G14 members - have voiced similar concerns here in Dubai.

But Mr Siegler said: "The big clubs have their interest group and their concerns are known. But I want to say there is no war between Fifa and the clubs; we are never against continuing dialogue with them."

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