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Thursday, 1 February, 2001, 10:14 GMT
EU sport commissioner Viviane Reding quizzed

The football world is being shaken to its roots by the European Union's demand for changes to the system of international transfers. Uefa is warning of chaos. Viviane Reding, EU commissioner responsible for sport, answered some of your questions.

To listen to coverage of the forum, select the link below:


Highlights from the Forum

Claire Stocks, London, UK:

If the new system only applies to cross-border transfers in Europe, as has been suggested, won't that lead to a two-tier system, with players wanting to leave for domestic clubs tied under existing domestic laws but those who can negotiate transfers to another European country, free to leave under the new system. This will encourage players to move abroad and be bad for English football.

Viviane Reding:

It is very clear that Europe can only intervene in European affairs not in domestic affairs. This means that the way things are handled in Great Britain will continue to be handled under British regulations and under British laws. We do not intervene in this. Already today we do have two systems; we have the national systems and we have the international system which is regulated by FIFA. The Commission is only intervening in the international system.

Alisdair Cain, Laurencekirk, Scotland:

Do you see a future where transfer fees remain intact, but players can still leave at the end of their contract?

Viviane Reding:

The Commission had no intention whatsoever to abolish transfer fees - that was not the point of discussion. The point was how will those transfer fees be paid and under which regulations and can FIFA intervene in the transfer systems internationally. I would answer by saying that according to the ruling of the European Court of Justice, there are no fees after the end of a contract.

News Host:

One of the more popular questions asked by several people including S.McIlroy, Clydebank, Scotland, Chris Pyrah, Bradford and Thomas Mullarkey, London. They are basically all saying: What will happen to the small clubs? This applies to some of the lower division clubs across Europe, not only in England but right across the scale. Will they not get any sort of compensation?

Viviane Reding:

Yes they will get compensation. This was always one of my first objectives because football is not only professional football. Professional football and big clubs can only exist because at the base there are the small clubs. The education done in these small clubs is essential. We have done everything possible so there would be a training fee, independent from the transfer fee. This training fee would be paid until the footballer is 23 years old. In this way the club that has trained the young talent will have the benefit of giving this training.

Chris Hayward, Tokyo, Japan:

How will small clubs survive in the tough financial situation many find themselves, if their best talent can freely leave for big money contracts, and the club receive no financial lifeline as they do now? And if many small clubs collapse, will it not limit competition and reduce the opportunities open to young people wanting to get into the sport?

Viviane Reding:

One of the main objectives of the discussions was to make sure that those small clubs can survive. In the media at large, there was a lot of misinformation about this. A lot of small clubs were not well informed by their federations and as such were apprehensive as to whether they could survive or not. However, the situation is clear - it has been said by the Commission and confirmed in the parliament over one year ago. One of our aims is to preserve the pyramid of the football world where at the base there are the small clubs in our villages and towns and these clubs must survive.

Richard Freedman, Brussels Belgium:

Given the clear political signal at Nice on the special nature of sport, would you not agree that the interests of small clubs must be protected by any reform of transfer fees? Should the Commission not also be looking at how it can create a fairer redistribution of income to smaller clubs?

Viviane Reding:

The Commission does not have any power to intervene in these matters. The only area where the Commission can intervene when it comes to the collective is when it comes to the collective sale of TV rights. In this area the Commission says that the collective sale of TV rights can only be allowed if part of this money is reinvested into small clubs.

Warren Heyman, London, England:

There are rumours circulating that the EU/FIFA/UEFA plans are to state that a player can only be transferred once a season. Surely this is not a legitimate answer to the problem being faced? What is going to happen with the idea of a transfer window? Will it only be once a season or at certain periods in the year?

Viviane Reding:

Firstly, why should there be a transfer window? There is a difference between professional football players and a car worker because if the car worker leaves his post and is employed elsewhere, this does not affect the work of the car industry. Whereas if a player leaves during a championship for instance this greatly affects the team. This is a real problem and that is why we have said in order to have some permanency in the team, we need to have transfer windows. We can not allow transfers to be done continuously and destroy the stability of the team and the championship.

News Host:

I see that FIFA and UEFA are hoping to have a settlement or an agreement within the next three or four weeks. How close do you think that UEFA and FIFA are on an agreement?

Viviane Reding:

At the beginning of this year we were very near because FIFA had presented some proposals which were near to a settlement. But then again there was some upheaval in the football world, FIFA and UEFA did not agree and the professional footballers didn't agree with either of them. We gave them until the 16th February in order to find agreement among themselves.

One important element in this story is that from the beginning the Commission wanted the football world, which was in complete disorder, to be reunited. You cannot have rules imposed by one element of the football world, FIFA for instance, without the clubs and football players agreeing on this or to be part of the decision-making.

News Host:

What would happen if a solution cannot be reached?

Viviane Reding:

I refuse to consider that a solution cannot be reached because that would be an extraordinary failure and it would go against the interests of the football world. The football world has a deep interest that we reach an agreement and I am sure that they have understood the necessity to reach such an agreement. This is why I am confidence that in the next few weeks this agreement shall be reached.

News Host:

Tom Hayward, Hampshire, UK and Andrew Cryer, Bolton, UK. They are both concerned that the bureaucrats in Europe are getting involved when they should leave football alone. What is your answer to that?

Viviane Reding:

Firstly, I don't feel I am a bureaucrat because I am an elected politician. Secondly, the Commission as such can only act on the basis of the treaty, that is not done by the Commission but by the heads of state and government and ratified by the national parliaments. The treaty has given the Commission certain obligations which they must carry out.

Andrew Mennear, London, UK:

Would you like to see an EU team competing in the World Cup, under the EU flag and anthem, rather than the current participation of the national sides of the member states?

Viviane Reding:

I can only give you my personal opinion. I am very fond of my home city's team and I become very nationalistic when I see this team play and win. I think we should keep our local teams and our national teams and we should compete in fair competition and be happy with each other when we win or lose. We can leave things as they are. It is good as it is.

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24 Jan 01 | Football
Transfers solution in sight
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