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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 November 2006, 11:19 GMT
Rich clubs 'good for football'
By Bill Wilson
Business reporter, BBC News, Dubai

Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein
G-14 is a friend of football, Arsenal's David Dein says

Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein has said that the G-14 grouping of football's wealthiest clubs is looking to build bridges with the game's authorities, such as Fifa.

Last month, Mr Dein took over the reins at the organisation, which represents 18 of Europe's major clubs.

He has promised an end to the tension between the top clubs and football's world governing body, Fifa.

"G-14 is a friend of the game," he told delegates at the Soccerex football finance seminar in Dubai.

"It is not just for the good and great, the rich and famous. It is clubs that are similar in many respects because of their success, or the money they generate."

He pointed to the fact that G-14 was backing non-members Newcastle United and Charleroi, and other clubs, in their legal disputes with the FA and Fifa over compensation for players who return injured from international duty.

Thorny issues

G-14 MEMBERS
AC Milan
Ajax
Borussia Dortmund
Barcelona
Bayern Munich
Inter Milan
Juventus
Liverpool
Manchester United
Olympique Lyonnais
Paris Saint-Germain
Porto
PSV Eindhoven
Real Madrid
Arsenal
Bayer Leverkusen
Olympique Marseille
Valencia

Mr Dein said that since the Champions League had moved to a group format in 1992/93, all bar one of the finalists had been G-14 members.

"G-14 is delivering the product," he said, adding that the success of its member clubs had a positive impact in driving up TV and merchandising revenues for all clubs.

On one of the thorniest issues in football today, namely who should insure club players on international duty and pay compensation if they are then injured, he said he believed a solution was in sight.

Mr Dein said cases such as that of Belgian club Charleroi, who have taken Fifa to the European Court of Justice over the issue, could be settled out of court.

"This is one of the oldest subjects (for clubs), it is being spoken about at all major meetings, about players being injured," he said. "There has to be compensation - it is not unreasonable."

Mr Dein said he agreed with Fifa president Sepp Blatter's view that it was an honour for club players to play for their country.

"But... the clubs that release players should get paid for releasing players," he said. "The good news is that the issue is on the agenda now."

Future formula

Valencia's defender Curro Torres (L) vies for the ball with Real Madrid Brazilian striker Robinho
G-14 represents Europe's wealthiest football clubs

Mr Dein said he believed a solution to move forward amicably with football's governing authorities was nearly in sight.

"I believe in the not-too-distant future that a formula can be drawn up, and these (court) cases can be put aside," he said.

The Arsenal vice-chairman, who also sits on Fifa's club forum, said he believed the way forward was for either Fifa or European confederation Uefa to buy insurance for players participating in major tournaments, such as the World Cup or European Championship.

As for friendly matches, national football associations could pick up the insurance tab, he suggested.

"Fifa said it would take a lot of organising, but they can sub-contract it out to one of the top insurance companies," Mr Dein said.

Home-grown talent

We live in a free-market economy, how can we stop someone investing in the game they love?
David Dein, Arsenal vice-chairman and G-14 chief

One issue over which G-14 is still at loggerheads with Fifa is the international fixture calendar.

"The August international friendly has to come off the calendar, and maybe the November fixture," Mr Dein said.

He also rejected a suggestion by Mr Blatter that six "home-grown" players should feature in every professional club's 11-man side.

"As an English club we want to have a base of English players if we can," he said, adding that Arsenal spent 3m to 4m a year nurturing local talent.

"But if it is not there, we have to buy-in talent from overseas."

Wild West

Mr Dein warned that any attempt to impose player quotas would fly in the face of European employment legislation, and would end up in the courts.

Turning to the issue of player agents in the domestic game - a topic increasingly under the microscope in England - he said they had a "crucial role in guiding their players".

However, he added: "There has to be more control, because it has been a bit of the 'Wild West' over the past few years.

"The majority are good agents, but there are some who play fast and loose with the rules."

The English Premiership has seen an increasing number of overseas millionaire and billionaire owners, such as at Chelsea, Manchester United, Aston Villa, and more recently West Ham, leading some to worry about the motives of the buyers.

Earlier, Mr Blatter told the Soccerex gathering that he was not concerned about big investors in England, but added "we need to see where is the money coming from and where is it going".

Responding, Mr Dein said: "We live in a free-market economy. How can we stop someone investing in the game they love? Whatever we think, they are there, and we will see a lot more of them."


SEE ALSO
Big clubs lock horns with Fifa
15 Nov 05 |  Business

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