European clubs plot ‘revolution’ against FIFA

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European clubs plot ‘revolution’ against FIFA

GENEVA - Around 150 European football clubs began a two-day meeting on Monday to agree their strategy for getting a better deal from FIFA.

The semiannual European Club Association (ECA) gathering comes after its chairman, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, publicly criticized Sepp Blatter and questioned the newly re-elected FIFA president’s authority to lead world football.

Rummenigge, the Bayern Munich chief executive, has called for a democratic “revolution’’ in how football is run that gives clubs more influence.

Top of the agenda for Rummenigge’s members is cutting FIFA’s international fixture calendar, the document that demands when they must hand over players for national team duty.

One option likely to be discussed in Geneva is reducing the size of qualifying groups for future World Cups and the UEFA-run European Championships.

ECA members could propose that European countries play in four-team groups to reach the 2018 World Cup.

Most of UEFA’s 53 members were drawn in six-team groups to allocate Europe’s 13 places at the 2014 tournament in Brazil, with only winners qualifying directly. The best group runners-up advance to a playoff round, adding up to 12 fixtures in a 15-month period.

A format of 13 four-team groups could send all first-placed nations directly to the 2018 tournament in Russia having played just six qualifying fixtures.

With the current FIFA calendar set through the 2014 World Cup, Europe’s clubs quickly want to establish their right to help negotiate the next one.

Clubs argue that playing fewer international matches, especially widely unpopular friendlies, will keep their employees fitter and fresher to represent them.

Blatter, who was voted back into office by national federations, has suggested players could take part in fewer matches by reducing the size of Europe’s leagues, which would threaten clubs’ earning potential.

He was worried when many star players seemed too tired to perform well at the 2010 World Cup, FIFA’s signature event that earns the governing body almost 90 percent of its $1 billion-plus annual income.

Rummenigge and the ECA also want a bigger slice of FIFA’s World Cup profits, firstly by Blatter’s organization underwriting an insurance policy to cover the salaries of players injured on international duty.

FIFA currently pays clubs at a daily rate for using their players at the World Cup. Payments were agreed in a 2008 peace deal which gave the ECA official recognition to represent clubs, but this accord with FIFA and UEFA expires in July 2014.

The scheme shared $40 million among 400 clubs in 55 countries whose players went to the 2010 tournament in South Africa. FIFA has budgeted to pay $70 million at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, which works out at less than 2 percent of expected tournament revenues. Rummenigge and Blatter met in Zurich two weeks ago after a year of trading barbs and snubs.

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