Top clubs want share of World Cup profits

BRUSSELS: Europe's elite clubs will demand about 20 percent of the profits from the 2006 World Cup in exchange for dropping opposition to other FIFA competitions such as the Club World Championship and Confederations Cup. 

A formula linking “compensation” to national team call-ups for the World Cup finals in Germany in three years' time was hammered out on Tuesday at a meeting of the G14 group, which represents 18 of Europe's leading clubs. 

Manchester United chief executive Peter Kenyon, who is a vice-president of G14, said it was inevitable that negotiations would involve clubs' attitudes to the world governing body's more contentious tournaments. 

The G14 will take their proposed formula back to FIFA in response to a challenge laid down by its president, Sepp Blatter, at a meeting between the two organisations last month. 

Michael Van Praag of Ajax, another G-14 vice-president, said: “At the moment, the only ones who do not benefit from the huge revenues of the World Cup Finals are the clubs who provide the players. 

“We take all the risks because we get the players back tired, injured and lacking in motivation. The clubs also pay their salaries and insurance while they are away. We just want some compensation for that.” 

However, a spokesman for world soccer's governing body told Reuters: “The executive committee (of FIFA) will have a look at the proposal and give a formal reply after studying various aspects. But it's unlikely to agree to any such proposal.” 

“It's only coming from a few big clubs in Europe but we have to defend the interests of the 204 national associations and they are different to the interests of the top European clubs.” 

Neither Van Praag nor Kenyon would comment on the likely compensation sum to be demanded beyond confirming that the clubs had agreed unanimously on a specific formula. 

But an international soccer source said it would represent about 20 percent of the 2006 World Cup profits to be split among all those clubs around the world – but mostly in Europe – whose players participate at the Finals. 

FIFA figures show that last year's tournament in South Korea and Japan generated a profit of about £140mil (US$222.5mil), which is expected to rise above US$200mil in Germany. A 20 percent slice would be £40mil. 

Kenyon, accepting that a similar concept could operate at the European championship, acknowledged that the clubs would use their acquiescence to the 2003 Confederations Cup and 2005 Club World Championship as a bargaining tool. 

“We accept that the Confederations Cup, for example, is contracted and will go ahead but we think there is a way we can work with FIFA. It's also inevitable, given the way the game is organised, that all these issues will be linked together.” 

But the FIFA spokesman said: “It (the proposal) is rather unrealistic. We already reimburse the national associations who participate in FIFA competitions to help cover their costs and to develop football in their countries. 

“The leagues are members of the national associations and the big clubs already benefit from their work,” he added, pointing out that FIFA has a global role.  

“The big clubs should not complain if they are asked to release some players.” 

The G14 clubs also considered progress in lobbying the European Union for a specific sports protocol – the right of the sporting authorities to run their sports in the way they see fit – as part of the Treaty of Rome. 

The G14 discussed how best to profit from a renegotiation of Champions League media rights, since the intervention of the European Commission means that from next season clubs can claw back the rights to some Champions League match action. 

The G14 clubs are Juventus, AC and Inter Milan, Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia, Paris Saint Germain, Olympique Marseille, Olympique Lyonnais, Ajax Amsterdam, PSV Eindhoven, Porto. – Reuters 

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