Rummenigge accuses FIFA of neglecting clubs

FIFA is neglecting the needs of clubs while Sepp Blatter seeks a
fourth term as its president, according to European Club
Association chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

Rummenigge told The Associated Press on Tuesday that FIFA is
”doing everything” for the national federations, which can vote
Blatter back into power on June 1.

He said the contest between Blatter and Qatari rival Mohamed bin
Hammam has focused too much on FIFA finances and World Cup bids,
and ignored football issues affecting clubs, players and fans, such
as the international match calendar.

”Today we have no democracy in FIFA,” said Rummenigge, the
former West Germany great who leads the 197-member ECA.

”FIFA is doing nothing in favor of the clubs. It’s clear that
they are doing everything in favor of the FAs to convince them to
go ahead with Blatter or whatever,” he said in a telephone
interview.

At the same congress in Zurich where the presidential vote will
take place, FIFA is also set to dismiss clubs’ objections by
unveiling a ”9-plus-9” player quota rule restricting foreign
players in top-tier matches worldwide, Rummenigge said.

Club vs. country tensions between FIFA and the ECA, representing
the best and wealthiest teams from Europe’s 53 football nations,
have increased in the past year.

Rummenigge, who is also the executive board chairman of Bayern
Munich, said he wrote to Blatter telling him that clubs could not
accept the status quo.

”It was pointed out quite clear in the wording that now we have
arrived at a point where we don’t accept to go forward,” he
said.

FIFA’s latest proposal to regulate clubs’ freedom to select
players from abroad seems sure to widen the divide.

The replacement for Blatter’s failed ”6-plus-5” plan – which
was nationality-based and broke European labor laws – appears on
congress papers as a ”first-registered players” scheme.

Rummenigge said the so-called ”9-plus-9” would require one
half of a club’s 18-man squad to have been trained ”before the age
of 18” within the national association.

FIFA’s proposal would diminish club football by restricting a
coach’s ability to pick his best players, and encourage ”child
hunting” of teenage talent around the world, he claimed.

”The European Club Association has explicitly rejected it. I am
convinced FIFA and UEFA have not thought this through in detail,”
Rummenigge said.

FIFA has rules controlling the transfer of minors, albeit with
exemptions allowing cross-border signings in some
circumstances.

Rummenigge said he preferred UEFA’s existing ”homegrown” rule
which requires eight players in a 25-man squad to have been trained
in the club’s home country.

FIFA angered clubs by last June adding international fixture
dates to their players’ workload without consulting them. Blatter
also suggested that smaller league sizes – cutting club fixtures
and income streams – would keep stars fresher for the World
Cup.

Blatter then upset ECA members by talking freely of a winter
2022 World Cup in Qatar which would disrupt league schedules. And
he resisted club requests to spend World Cup profits insuring
players’ salaries for injuries sustained on national team duty.

Rummenigge said talks with FIFA in March did not help, and
seemed to harm clubs’ previously ”relaxed and smart” dialogue
with UEFA and its president Michel Platini.

”UEFA did not accept that we (should) speak to FIFA regarding
the calendar,” the ECA chairman said.

Rummenigge hopes relations will improve after the electioneering
is over.

”I hope there will be a change of policy, respecting that the
clubs are a very important part of the football family,” he
said.