Just like a punch drunk prizefighter, the G-14 clubs are reeling around the football ring stumbling from one fight to another. Having attempted a set-to with UEFA over their Vision Europe project, they then proceeded to try another one with the same organisation over a re-vamp of the Champions League, wanting two more games per team in each tournament. This is, of course, a set of G-14 clubs who are completely unrelated to the bunch of fly-by-nights who wanted a reduction in the fixture list not so long ago.
However, today they stumbled straight into a fight that they have long been spoiling for. The thorny issue of compensation for players called up for international duty has been vexing the clubs for the last few seasons, with Dastardly Darth Blatter swatting them away on the basis that (a) it was not an issue for FIFA to get involved with, (b) the National Associations pump their profits into all levels of the game using funds provided by the FIFA World Cup and (c) he really just could not be arsed to sit down and work out a compromise with the clubs. Now he has no choice as European Giants Charleroi are taking the Burghers of Berne to court in Belgium over an injury suffered by Adbelmajid Oulmers whilst on International duty with Morocco. Charleroi claim that his injury in November 2004 effectively was the reason why the Belgian title did not staying in their trophy cabinet for the next twelve months. Leaving aside the obvious subjectivity of their results if he had played the remaining six months of the season, there is the small question as to whether or not they would have been capable of breaking the monopoly enjoyed by Anderlecht and Club Brugge. Personally I doubt it.
They do have a valid point in terms of the claim for compensation. It seems ludicrous that a business can be ordered (not politely asked; ordered) to release its main assets in order that they are used by another business to fulfill its commitments that have been placed on it by a third business, without any recompense for use or damage to this asset. Put bluntly, any real business that agreed to that series of transactions would quickly go to the wall. The problem that clubs face in getting FIFA’s agreement to the compensation is the disparity of wealth between the different member states which is one of the reasons why FIFA is the chosen defendant rather than the Moroccan FA. Looking at the England squad, a conservative estimate is that the average weekly wage will be in the neighbourhood of £60k per week – a very respectable neighbourhood in which to reside, I am sure you will agree. Over the course of the World Cup, the players will be unavailable to their clubs for a period of six to eight weeks. This is a cost of approximately £11.5m in monies paid for an asset that cannot be used. Now for the cash rich Western Europeans, this is not particularly a problem but for the cash strapped African and Asian FA’s this is more than their revenues in one season.
Which leads to serious questions about the leadership being shown by Blatter. Or perhaps arrogance would be a better description. He has clearly only thought that the clubs are flexing their muscle and how dare they intrude on his personal fiefdom. Any sane thinking person would have thought to head this off before another bloody nose is dealt to football by the European Court of Justice. If this action in Belgium is defended successfully, there will be precious little respite before a case is brought before the French courts by Olympique Lyonnais in similar circumstances, i.e. player injured on International duty – not the Championship. It will only take one of these cases to go to the ECJ and the FIFA House of Sand will start to crumble. Once this does, the G-14 clubs will not be the only sharks in the water circling the FIFA carcass. The Great White UEFA is a particularly lethal predator although this beast prefers death by a thousand cuts rather then one fell swoop.