Compensation row grows

Fifa is in dispute with the G14 group of the richest clubs over who should pay to insure players on national duty, and pay their wages should the stars then be injured.

World soccer rules say players must be released for international football without entitlement to financial compensation.

But in a surprise move Fifa says it is now “ready to reform the regulation”.

A statement released by Heinz Taennler, the director of Fifa’s legal division in Zurich, says Fifa is now prepared to look at establishing an insurance and compensation fund for international players.

Fifa is currently being sued by a Belgian club Charleroi – backed by the G14 group of rich clubs – over an injury suffered on international duty by Morocco’s Abdelmajid Oulmers. The G14 group of rich clubs includes among others, Manchester United, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Juventus, Chelsea, Liverpool and Barcelona.

Charleroi say the loss of Oulmers to injury during an international assignment, prejudiced their hopes of success, and they also had to pay his wages while he was out of action.

In May, the case was moved from a tribunal in Charleroi to the European Court of Justice, where it is waiting to be heard.

Taennler said that sometimes after international duty the clubs had “a player, an employee, not available for a short time, or sometimes a long time, but still has to be paid”.

“Fifa wants to take the clubs into consideration,” he continued. “In order to be able to do this, Fifa will probably reform the regulation at some time in the future.

“We are working on the possibility of an insurance fund, and a compensation fund,” Taennler said at the World Sport Law Report Summit recently. “This will take time as Fifa is a political organization.”

This move was initially brought up in June during the World Cup when Liverpool striker Djibrel Cisse was injured on June 7, a day before the world cup began, while playing in a friendly match for France. The striker had joined French club Marseille before the world cup on a season-long loan from Liverpool and was yet to kick a ball for Marseille as league action only started end of July. His injury was estimated to last for six months until the time when Cisse’s tenure at Marseille would already have expired. Both Marseille and Liverpool cried foul.

The current Fifa rules state the clubs are responsible for insurance cover against illness and accident during the entire period of a player’s release. This cover must also extend to any injuries sustained by the player during the international matches for which he was released.

The statement released by Taennler at the recently held World Sport Law Report event, said that progress had been made during the summer World Cup, with the establishment of Fifa’s World Cup compensation fund.

The Southern Times understands that a fund of US$12m has been set aside to help poorer nations whose football authorities cannot not afford the sort of insurance cover taken out by nations, such as England and Germany.

In this way, FIFA is defending its role as the guardian of world soccer and indirectly rejecting calls to share control of the sport – which some governments have been orchestrating and clamouring for.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter described soccer in danger of being destroyed by wealthy club owners, who pour too much money into the game.

“Despite the indisputable respect that the world of football must show national legislation, it must be extremely vigilant with regard to attempts by governments – as well as supranational government organisations – to control the most popular sport on earth,” Blatter said in a statement.

FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, has been in a long dispute with the European Union. Brussels has said it would like to set new rules for corporate governance in soccer, impose tougher rules on players’ agents and perhaps set a salary cap.

Blatter said the attempt to interfere in soccer matters was “a trend which has become increasingly evident in recent years, especially in Europe.”

An EU-backed report released in May said that financial scandals, corruption and racism had left European soccer in a dire state and called on the “direct involvement of political leaders” to put the continent’s favorite sport back on track.

The report called for stricter corporate governance in the wake of betting and match-fixing scandals in Germany and Italy as well as financial difficulties that affect clubs across Europe. It also recommended that a rule on homegrown players should be reintroduced and said clubs must continue to release players to national teams without compensation.

UEFA, European soccer’s governing body, cooperated closely with the report. Concrete proposals based on the report are expected by the end of this year.

Although no Southern African country has been named, FIFA said it also was concerned by occurrences of government interference in soccer in countries like Algeria, Cambodia, Iran, Nigeria, Poland and Portugal. A dispute with Greece has been resolved, it said, and speedy resolutions had been achieved with disputes in countries like Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia and Uganda, without government interference.

FIFA said national associations have recommended that Kenya’s soccer federation be suspended “for failing to respect agreements that had been signed and for recurrent problems in the association, in particular the integrity of national competitions.”

October 2006
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