Clubs and FIFA on different wavelengths

THE ongoing cold war between football’s world governing body and Europe’s top clubs saw no hint of a thaw in the desert heat yesterday as leading representatives from both sides discussed their differences in a public arena.

FIFA’s director of communications Markus Siegler and Umberto Gandini, sporting director of G14 powerhouse AC Milan, were brought together on the final day of the Soccerex football industry convention in Dubai.

Their positions were far from complementary as they discussed the dispute over the issue of payments and compensation to clubs for players used in international matches. The G14 group is backing a case in the European courts brought by Belgian side Charleroi over a Moroccan player injured for eight months while on international friendly duty.

Charleroi began proceedings against FIFA in September for compensation over the loss of Abdelmajid Oulmers with the case (with implications as deep as the Bosman ruling on transfers 15 years ago) set to reach the courts next March.

The recourse to legal action has angered FIFA’s Siegler, who yesterday said: “FIFA is not against dialogue. What we do not like is if an interest group tries to solve problems through the courts - we want dialogue.

“Our rules state that it is not allowed to go to court. There is a regulatory system within football, and we have our own Court for Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland.”

He later revealed that talks had been held at an informal level between FIFA and G14.

Siegler said: “This is not a fight. This is a topic in the media being debated hotter than it is. I’d like to quote Arsene Wenger, who said: ‘I do not believe the issue is a monetary issue. The issue is fine tuning with regard to dates’. “For example, when it comes to double header qualification matches, coaches would like these played on a Saturday and Tuesday, not Saturday and Wednesday,” Siegler said.

“There must be compromises. The international calendar is mentioned but that is already in place. It must be in everyone’s interests that we find solutions so let’s speak like in a family - and in a family you never have the same opinions - bring it on the table and everybody can not only claim but must be ready to compromise.”

Whether G14 is prepared to compromise is another matter, with Milan’s Gandini saying yesterday: “This is not just about financial compensation - it’s about decision-making processes, and our concerns about this. The football associations, federations, and FIFA itself are rapidly becoming our financial competitors. We employ our star players and pay their wages, but other people are taking our employees - the players - and using them to make money, yet we’re excluded from the decision-making processes.”

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