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.