Soccer Clubs Say Patience Running Out With FIFA Over Governance

Europe’s biggest soccer clubs warned FIFA they may take action unless the sport’s governing body starts consulting them before making scheduling decisions on players trained and employed by them.

The European Club Association, a trade body that represents around 200 of the continent’s top teams, met today in Geneva, and executives said they’re concerned about how soccer is governed. They asked FIFA to consult clubs before ruling on changes to the fixture calendar, and come to an agreement on insurance costs and other decisions that affect club soccer.

“I wouldn’t say we are at war: The clubs are very patient but we have limits,” Barcelona President Sandro Rosell, an ECA vice president, told reporters at a press conference. He declined to say what the consequences would be.

Clubs are upset that FIFA added two international fixtures to the annual match calendar without entering into discussions with the teams. European clubs were also angered by the staging of exhibition matches weeks after the end of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, before many of the players had started pre-season training. Demands for FIFA to cover insurance costs for players on national team duty have reached stalemate.

“All of a sudden we discover they can modify the calendar at any time of the year,” said AC Milan director Umberto Gandini, who’s also an ECA vice president. “Our players, after an exhausting European season, don’t have a rest.”

Gandini said there are no meetings set with FIFA, though he stressed that the organization must speak with the ECA before deciding the 2014-18 soccer schedule.


He said this week’s games, which require players to spend four days with their national teams, wouldn’t be enough to achieve anything practical, while they disrupted the European league season.

“Tell me who is a national team manager or club manager who is happy there is an international friendly match tomorrow?” he said. “It’s just nonsense.”

Since Qatar was given the right to host the 2022 World Cup, FIFA President Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, the head of European soccer, have publicly spoken about the possibility of moving the tournament to the northern hemisphere’s winter to avoid the heat in the Gulf state.

Blatter yesterday said the competition would probably remain a June/July event. The ECA said the manner of the public pronouncements on issues that would seriously alter the way their league schedules were structured was an example of FIFA’s “top down” approach.

“This is an issue that hasn’t been dealt with correctly,” said Manchester United’s Chief Executive Officer David Gill, an ECA board member. “It’s not just our view. It’s the view of the leagues as well. This is a major thing that would have ramifications for club football for three seasons. For it to happen in that way was somewhat surprising.”

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