FIFA deal to boost player power

FIFA have joined forces with FIFPro, the International Federation of Professional Footballers, in a move which will give the players an official voice in decision-making.

In what was described by FIFA president Sepp Blatter as an “historic day” for football, the two organisations signed an agreement which will see the bodies try to reach common ground on problems facing the sport.

Blatter, flanked by FIFPro president Philippe Piat and Barcelona stars Samuel Eto’o and Lilian Thuram, said: “The players form an important part of our footballing family and must be part of the decision-making at international level.”

The FIFA president listed subjects as diverse as corruption, betting, racism and doping as matters on which the two bodies will cooperate.

“Also, if the playing calendar is too full, problems can arise and we want to hear the players’ opinions,” he said.

His words were echoed by veteran France defender Thuram.

“Today is a great day because FIFA are opening up communication with the players,” he said.

Eto’o agreed, saying: “Football, above all, should be for the players. Before it seemed as if we just played, while others made the important decisions. I felt part of the game, but as if I was on the other side.”

Blatter also claimed FIFA would not be held responsible for players injured on international duty, such as West Ham’s Dean Ashton or Atletico Madrid’s Maxi Rodriguez.

Clubs have threatened legal action in some cases after players were injured playing for their countries.

“In international tournaments, we oblige the national associations to take out insurance policies on their players and under FIFA rulings, clubs also have the responsibility to insure their players for all competitions,” said Blatter.

FIFA are currently embroiled in a legal case with Belgian side Charleroi, whose star midfielder Abdelmajid Oulmers was ruled out for eight months after picking up an injury on international duty with Morocco.

However, Blatter said he was optimistic this case would not end up in the European Court.

“We are trying to find a solution to this ongoing problem and hope that the case can be solved before it reaches the European Court,” he added.

“Before a decision is made by the tribunal, we will come up with a solution and protocol so that we don’t end up with a second Bosman case,” he said, referring to the landmark legal case that revolutionised the transfer market.

Blatter also announced the appointment of Barcelona president Joan Laporta as FIFA’s chairman of the “For the Good of the Game” competitions working group, in place of AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani.

Meanwhile, FIFPro president Piat took a swipe at the G14 group of 18 powerful European clubs.

“Today is the launch of a period of football dealing with its own problems and not an outside organisation,” said Piat.

“It sends a message to the likes of the G14 and other outside associations that we want to solve our own problems.

“FIFA is a private organisation that makes private decisions, so the day that players accept decisions from outside influences is a troublesome day.”

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