Club v country issue must be sorted, says Kenyon

CHELSEA chief executive Peter Kenyon wants football’s governing bodies to meet with clubs and thrash out a solution to the perennial club versus country debate.

Kenyon, speaking to delegates at a high-powered Soccerex business convention yesterday, addressed a variety of topics as a member of the Global Club Panel, including the next Premiership television rights deal and Chelsea's exclusion from the G14 collective of top European clubs.

The continuing tension between clubs and their national associations over the release of players for international matches is the hottest subject of all. It has come to a head in the law courts where Belgium club Charleroi, backed by G14, is suing world governing body FIFA for compensation for the eight-month loss of one of its players, Abdelmajid Oulmers, injured on World Cup qualifying duty for Morocco.

Bolton manager Sam Allardyce, also in Dubai, wants FIFA and UEFA to set up a global insurance policy to end the row and Kenyon also wants to find a way to satisfy both the clubs and national teams. The Chelsea chief executive said compensation for top clubs who release players for international games had to be discussed as did the formulation of workable international football calendar. "It is a fact many players get back (from playing for their country) on a Thursday, and they will have a big game on the Saturday," Kenyon said.

"In the last week at Chelsea all but four of our players were away on international duty. Football can't keep piling more and more games on, many of them meaningless friendlies.

Kenyon, meanwhile, expressed his confidence that the Premier League could still equal the €1.5 billion value of its last television deal which expires at the end of next season, despite the European Commission's instructions to change the way the EPL awards its contracts. He said that television money had been the cornerstone of the Premiership's success and it was critically important it kept rolling in.

But he warned against the saturation coverage of games on TV affecting attendances at matches.

"We do not want the doomsday scenario where stadiums are empty but we are getting all our money from television. It's having full stadiums that make the great TV spectacles."

Not that he was blaming the product. Kenyon explained poor gates for Chelsea's Champions League group games this season as a result of the level of opposition and strongly defended the recently maligned Premiership, for both its standard of football and its competitiveness, despite his club's apparent romp to a second consecutive title.

"Keeping the domestic league healthy is of prime importance," the Chelsea chief executive said. "The Premier League is a great product, one of the best in the world, and gets fantastic exposure on TV, but we can't become complacent.

"It is competitive, there is not a game we go into that we take for granted to get a result. We sell out our Premier League games, which are over-subscribed."

Kenyon played down speculation that a European Super League was in the pipeline. "We don't want to play AC Milan or Bayern Munich every week it is not what our supporters want."

What he does want is for Chelsea to be admitted to the G14 group of clubs, of which AC Milan and Bayern are members. "We certainly have the stature to be there," he said.

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