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Last Updated: Monday, 27 November 2006, 08:09 GMT
Soccerex ready for final Dubai fixture
By Bill Wilson
Business reporter, BBC News, Dubai

FIFA president Sepp Blatter
FIFA president Sepp Blatter will mark the opening of the event

The football world's wheelers and dealers and executives and coaches are gathering at the mock-Arabesque resort of Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai for two days.

Set in the impressive shadow of the seven star Burj al Arab hotel, the delegates will be taking in a variety of seminars, exhibitions, and the opportunity to network.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter is the big name guest at this year's Soccerex convention, with 3,000 delegates attending the latest gathering of the world's biggest football business event.

Mr Blatter's arrival was greeted like that of a minor head of state, as he was given the red carpet treatment in a flurry of flashbulbs and handshakes.

He stopped only once on his entrance, by the stand of non-league Sheffield FC, founded in 1857, to point out to his Dubai hosts: "This is the oldest football club in the world, you know."

His attendance comes as Fifa faces two court cases with clubs over the release of players for international duty.

Belgian club Charleroi have taken Fifa to the European Court of Justice over a player who was injured while on international duty and a similar case is pending involving Olympique Lyon of France.

G14, the group that represents 18 of Europe's biggest clubs, has supported Charleroi over the issue - many of its members have similar concerns over the release of players to national associations.

No doubt Mr Blatter, the head of world football, will be taking the opportunity to catch up with Soccerex veteran David Dein, vice-chairman of Arsenal, who last month was new chairman of G-14.

The two sides have been trying to come to a more amenable set-up in the past few months, with Fifa's head of legal affairs telling the BBC that reform was possible - the establishment of an insurance and compensation fund has been suggested.

Top clubs

Among the other Soccerex delegates will be Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon, who said last week that Chelsea will be the biggest club in the world by 2014.

He said that Chelsea as a "football club and a brand is more dynamic, more relevant" than Manchester United.

Mr Kenyon has committed the club to break even by 2009, which might not be easy as they made losses of 140m this year.

Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon
Mr Kenyon will be explaining how to develop player academies

Man Utd have topped the Deloitte Football Money League for eight of the past nine years, and still beat Chelsea on turnover and fan base.

However Man Utd have lost their position at the top of the rich list to Real Madrid, who, along with the two English giants, will have representatives be in attendance.

Other top clubs sending representatives include Barcelona, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Celtic, Rangers, Spurs, Boca Juniors, Roma and Ajax.

And, together with Fifa, football administrators from Africa, Asia and the Middle East will be in attendance, as will representatives of the FA Premier League.

Football qualification

They will all no doubt all be interested in the launch, at Soccerex, of an international qualification for football directors.

It is the brainchild of Andrew Main-Wilson, chief operating officer of the London-based Institute of Directors (IoD).

He is hoping that senior figures like Mr Dein - who is backing the scheme - will contribute to courses, which should be set up and running by Easter.

AC Milan's midfielder Gennaro Gattuso (L) and Inter Milan's forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic
The two Milan giants will have representatives in attendance
"The programme has been created to help those responsible for the future of the game to fully understand their role and responsibilities, whether in the capacity of running a club or working for an association," said the IoD.

Meanwhile in the exhibition areas there will be 250 trade stands, representing firms from more than 75 countries.

Over 300m worth of business was signed off at Soccerex 2004, and, ahead of the World Cup, that rose to more than 350m in 2005.

It is hoped that figure will be exceeded this year, as exhibitors and delegates take the opportunity to network with suppliers, manufacturers and key buyers across the global industry.

As well as the wheeling and dealing, a wide variety of issues will be discussed at the two day event.

South Africa move

For club directors there will be discussions about selling, buying and valuing naming rights, commercial pressures facing the world's professional clubs, and how to develop club brands and attract sponsorship.

Other workshops will look at how to develop academy players into valuable assets.

Construction work in Dubai
This year will mark farewell to Dubai as host

Fifa global licensing, the commercial vision for the next five years in the Middle East and the changing media landscape will all also come under the spotlight.

On the supporters' side, there will be an examination of how to enhance the matchday experience for fans and whether football should take a more active role in promoting social development.

After this year's event the Soccerex caravan bids farewell to Dubai, after using the Gulf State as its home since 2001.

For the next three years Soccerex will be held in South Africa.

The South African government is underwriting the conferences as a way of selling itself to the football business community ahead of the World Cup in 2010.

Big clubs lock horns with Fifa
15 Nov 05 |  Business

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