European clubs blast FIFA

GENEVA, Feb 8, 2011 (AFP) - European football clubs on Tuesday voiced strong opposition to talk of a winter World Cup and criticised the way world governing body FIFA has been handling changes in football.

"The time for monopolies is over. Football needs democracy and transparency," said European Club Association chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

"ECA members agree that all clubs must be meaningfully involved in all decisions affecting club football. Now is the time for change," Rummenigge, who is also chairman of Bayern Munich, added after the 136 member association's general assembly here.

In a statement, the ECA expressed "its concern on the way matters of such importance are managed by football's world governing body" and "its opposition" to the "disruption" of mooted changes to the international fixture list including a winter World Cup.

It pointed to the sudden discovery of a FIFA decision last October to add eight new dates to the international match list in 2011 to 2014 "without any consultation" or "precise reason", despite growing warnings about player exhaustion.

"ECA is supportive of national team football but also believes that player's exhaustion through the excessive number of games must be addressed as a top priority," it said in a statement. "Currently this is not the case."

FIFA President Sepp Blatter gestures on the stage during the Czech Republic's Football Player of the Year 2010 award ceremony on February 7, 2011 in Prague as he congratulates Czech legendary midfielder Josef Masopust (unseen) on his 80th birthday. AFP

The stance of powerful European clubs, which own many of the world's top international players, added to a wave of discontent with FIFA in the wake of the controversial race late last year to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

They called for fixed rules for several seasons, a limit of one international tournament a year and a clear seven week break after major international tournaments like the World Cup continental championships.

Clubs have repeatedly complained about the growing intensity and breadth of league, European and international matches and the impact on players, as well as transfer and commercial issues over the years.

They have gradually united with the lead of big name clubs, forging ties with UEFA despite tensions.

But club executives feel increasingly left out of FIFA's decision making which they argue is now "heavily affecting club football without the involvement of the stakeholders concerned".

Manchester United chief executive David Gill said that progress had been made in Europe.

"We have excellent dialogue with UEFA at the moment and we hope to have that with FIFA," he told journalists.

FIFA has formed a "committee for club football" which includes top ECA executives like Rummenigge, Milan's Umberto Gandini and Lyon's Jean Michel Aulas. But Gill suggested that the body was "in its early stages."

Other news