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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 September 2006, 15:47 GMT 16:47 UK
Fifa ready to act on compensation
By Bill Wilson
Business reporter, BBC News

Abdelmajid Oulmers
The Oulmers case has been sent to the European Court of Justice

Football body Fifa may be ready to give ground on the biggest financial issue of the day, recompense for clubs whose stars are on international team duty.

Fifa is in dispute with the G14 group of clubs over who should pay to insure players on national duty, and pay their wages should the stars then be injured.

Fifa rules say players must be released for international football without entitlement to financial compensation.

But in a surprise move Fifa says it is now "ready to reform the regulation".

Heinz Taennler, the director of Fifa's legal division in Zurich says Fifa is now prepared to look at establishing an insurance fund and compensation fund for international players.

'Political organisation'

Fifa is currently being sued by Belgian club Charleroi - backed by the G14 group of rich clubs - over an injury suffered on international duty by Morocco's Abdelmajid Oulmers.

Charleroi say the loss of Mr Oulmers damaged their hopes of success, and they also had to pay his wages while he was out of action.

In May, the case was moved from a tribunal in Charleroi to the European Court of Justice, where it is waiting to be heard.

The objective is to say 'a better system has to be put in place'
Jean-Louis Dupont, counsel for G-14

Speaking at a sports law seminar in London, Mr Taennler said that sometimes after international duty the clubs had "a player, an employee, not available for a short time, or sometimes a long time, but still has be paid".

"Fifa wants to take the clubs into consideration," he continued. "In order to take the clubs into consideration Fifa will probably reform the regulation at some time in the future.

"We are working on the possibility of an insurance fund, and compensation fund," Mr Taennler said. "This will take time as Fifa is a political organisation."

He told delegates at the World Sport Law Report event that a start had been made during the summer with the establishment of Fifa's World Cup compensation fund.

That pot of 15m Swiss francs (6.3m; $12m; 9.5m euros) was designed to help poorer nations whose football authorities could not afford the sort of insurance cover taken out by nations such as England and Germany.

'Procedural problem'

The current Fifa rules state the clubs are "responsible for insurance cover against illness and accident during the entire period of his release. This cover must also extend to any injuries sustained by the player during the international matches for which he was released".

But Maurice Watkins, a director of G-14 member Manchester United, is convinced the time is right for Fifa to expand on its initial World Cup move.

He said: "I am sure the insurance side of things will be sorted in new regulations.

"There will be some system where there are payments into a pot. It may be that there will be standard payments [out of the pot]... it is a difficult procedural problem that has to be looked at."

However he said the compensation pot established for the World Cup contained "too little" cash.

Alluding to the Charleroi case, legal counsel for G-14, Jean-Louis Dupont, said: "There is a case in court where we are trying to convince a judge on the business of legal arguments that the current system is not legal. A better system is possible.

"We do not ask the judge to create a new system. The objective is to say 'a better system has to be put in place'.

"What it will be will be the result of all the stakeholders trying to find a rebalance."


SEE ALSO
Big clubs lock horns with Fifa
15 Nov 05 |  Business
G14 starts legal fight with Fifa
06 Sep 05 |  African

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