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.