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All power to the clubs: let the revolution begin

By Tony Attwood

There is very little that the football associations of various countries can do about Fifa since they have been playing the Fifa game for years.  Indeed all the English FA have done is made themselves look stupid.  They kow-tow to the Fifa organisation, will not have a word said against it, sign documents that would allow Fifa to operate tax free within the UK (and have their own car lanes), and clearly state that they expect to win the world cup rights, and then (when they don’t) they say, oh Fifa are nasty corrupt cheats.

So the thought has been for some time that if some sort of change might happen in football it has to come with the big clubs.

But that thought has been somewhere out of the rear view mirror since the G14 was broken up.

I had personally had great hopes for the G14 as a reforming body, and my feeling in their favour increased in May 2007, when Platini called on the group to disband, on the grounds that the clubs should be talking through the Professional Football Strategy Council.

Since the PFSC was in fact a Uefa body, and since (to me even if no one else) Uefa being part of Fifa was part of the problem, that seemed a bad move.  But, as is the way of the world, no one asked me, and in January 2008 the G14 and Uefa agreed that Fifa and Uefa would pay compensation for international injuries and selection after a World Cup or European Championship.  In return, the G14 agreed to disband.

The European Club Association was set up in its place recognised as the  body representing the interests of clubs at European level.   Mr Rummenigge was elected chairman at the club’s foundation.  

At their first meeting, the ECA rejected FIFA’s 6+5 rule – but it is noticeable that Fifa is continuing to push the 6+5 rule.

This rule says that at the start of each match, each club must field at least six players eligible to play for the national team of the country of the club. There is no restriction, however, on the number of non-eligible players under contract with the club, nor on substitutes.

Despite the ECA objection the Fifa Congress in 2008 decided to fully support the objectives of “6+5”  and request the presidents of and Uefa to explore the means to implement the rule incrementally, starting in 2010–11 with an extra number of home players introduced each year until 6+5 was reached in 2012-13.

The 6+5 rule was declared  illegal by the European Union and rejected by the Parliament in May 2008 as violating Article 48 of the EC Treaty.

The independent Institute for European Affairs (INEA) was then set up by Fifa to investigate the situation, and it declared in February 2009 that the  6+5 rule “can be implemented in line with European Community law.”   They chose not to explain exactly how.

And thus it was that the notion of negotiation between Fifa or Eufa and the ECA was born and died at the same died.  Negotiation for Fifa always means you pay and we do it our way.

Now  Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the chairman of the ECA, has called for a club-led “revolution” against the corruption that is endemic in the game.

And by and large I’d vote for that.

Mr Rummenigge is the CEO at Bayern Munich and he is quoted as saying that he has watched the “daily corruption process at Fifa” and asked the footballing authorities “to recognise that it’s time for democracy, transparency and the right balance in the football family”.

“I don’t accept any longer that we [should be] guided by people who are not serious and clean,” he said. “Now is the moment to intervene. Because knowing something is wrong is an obligation to change.”

Mr Rummenigge also said there was a groundswell of public support for his stance in the wake of recent scandals, the life-ban for Mohamed bin Hammam and “questions about the Qatari World Cup”.  He stated that there was discontent in Germany, Switzerland and England.

Mr Rummenigge was particularly strong in attacking Sepp Blatter, which the FA and its cronies across the world has not been able to do – something that the ECA recognises.

The new plan is revolutionary.  “All stakeholders – clubs, associations, players, referees, and women’s football – have a right to be involved in the decision-making process.”

Of course top of the agenda is not 6+5 which the EU believes to be illegal in Europe, no matter what Fifa says, but rather the insane number of international games played each year.  The CEO noted that between 1980 and 2016 the number of teams in the European Championship has trebled.  And here was his key point:

“The clubs pay the players but are not part of the decision-making process.We are not treated respectfully.”

So what now, since we all know that Fifa and Uefa will never give up any power.

Mr Rummenigge suggested a breakaway movement if the ECA’s position is  not addressed. “I will give them a chance but I’m ready for a revolution if that’s the only way to come to a solution,” he said.

And I for one will be there waving the flag.

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19 comments to All power to the clubs: let the revolution begin

  • I read this article yesterday and found really revolutionary. I for one would like to welcome the idea of giving the power in the hands of Clubs stakeholders instead of some corrupt bunch in fifa and uefa. But the basic problem will be to gain much support since fa’s all over the world sulks and filthy with the corruption courtesy of blatter. But if something like this happens it would put an end to the mass corruption in every football league.

  • Alun in Twickenham

    The sooner the better European clubs leaves FIFA & UEFA

  • walter

    Man the barricades!! Long live the revolution!!

    Thanks for this article and must say I am running behind things a bit for the moment as I didn’t read about this.
    Removing the power away from Fifa/Uefa is a good thing. But I do have a feeling that giving all the power to the clubs is not the solution. Just imagine having Abramovitch and the Sheikh from the City as the people with the complete power?
    That could be as bad as the current Fifa control.
    And could lead to another kind of corruption. Because people like those would be able to buy possible votes.

    But then again losing the corrupt gang of fifa could be itself the start of a better (football) world I think…

  • Woolwich Peripatetic

    I doubt moving the power from FIFA to the clubs would end corruption. After all, if you’re going to be relegated on the last day of the season by losing to a team with nothing to play for, would you not phone up their chairman and offer a massive bribe?
    But as supporters of a football club rather than a national side, it would be in the interest of our club if the game was organised for the benefits of the clubs.

  • Kentetsu

    At this moment the clubs are powerless. Any decision is made at FIFA/UEFA level and that’s that. And unless they make a stand together I don’t think anything will change. As the article suggests, the ECA is a joke and not taken serious by the FIFA. The only way to go is indeed a revolution, although I think most clubs do not have the guts to split off. There is too much money flowing their way by way of the Champions League. And although a similar competition can be set up by the ECA, for at least a few years it will not be as profitable as the Champions League. Unfortunately, FIFA/UEFA is where the money is and money makes friends.

  • mark

    The clubs need guts to stand up to FIFA and they need unity. I thing the need for change is well understood by the clubs but I don’t see the courage to stand up as the clubs don’t trust each other. If an attempt is made but a few of the big clubs (that have big financial problems) cave in the pressure the attempt fails.

    Maybe if the press really started to expose the corruption and if governments started demanding some changes then the clubs could attempt something.

    Korean football was the latest to have the cheating exposed. I hope they can clean it up. I hope other countries will take heed and take steps to prevent the cheating and infiltration by gambling!

  • This story seems to be moving much faster than I imagined when I first started picking up bits and pieces about it.

    I’ll try and return to it tomorrow, but there are fairly clear ideas emerging from the top clubs – including forming their own league and running their own international matches outside of Fifa/Uefa.

    Everything depends on whether Fifa will give in. I can’t see Blatter doing anything for the clubs but you never know.

  • @Woolwich

    I doubt such a situation would arrive when the clubs are freed from clutches of corrupt fifa and uefa. Once they come out they could easily implement latest technologies like goal-line and video review which should ultimately reduce(end) the corruption in football. But as Walter mentioned it all depends upon the person at the helm who would really like to change the face of Football all over the world.

  • @Kentetsu

    It’s true that fifa may not recognize any clean organization into its wings, but the fact is how many days can they give in for such acts. The reason UCL is so corrupted and generates so much money is because big-teams which are part of ECA plays in them. Imagine if they break-out from uefa then it would not get the credit like now. But for all this to happen people at the top should be clean which atleast in the case if EPL is not 🙁

    @Tony
    I was curious to know more while reading about fifa roaming tax-free in UK. Is it the same all over the world, does this mean all the government allow corruption in plain sight ?

  • walter

    Imagoner,
    when the proces of bidding was running I wrote an article about it. It is still on the site but shoot me as I don’t know when the time was.

    The article at the time was about what the government in Belgium and Holland had to promise to Fifa in order to have a chance of the world cup coming to my country. And it was all in there. Much to the disliking of many people. But as the government was thinking that it would make them more popular they silently agreed with those demands from fifa. Much to my disgust. And luckily to some politicians who warned the people for this.

  • bob

    imagegooner,
    Fifa, a private corp, goes tax-free in the UK? Even as players are taxed 50%? Could that be? To quote from that French inspector in “Casblanca: “I’m shocked! Shocked!,” I tell you.

  • bob

    imagooner,
    do you have a link to where it says Fifa roams tax free? Anyone know who had the power to grant that privilege?

  • Woolwich Peripatetic

    @imagooner,
    It might cut out match fixing by a third agent (the officiating) but that doesn’t stop the owner having a word with the manager and a weakened team being selected. Call it an unexpected run out for the youth team or some-such. Club A stays in the top flight, Club B’s owner gets a bit more cash to put into his team/pocket. When the financial penalty of dropping to a lower league is £40 million (supposedly in Wet Spam’s case) then a £5 million bribe is good business.

  • @bob

    I took the words from this post 🙂

    @Woolwich

    Do you think a club could sustain by such acts and retain their fans ? I for one don’t think so and no club would ever want such a bad reputation in the history. What such kind of acts would eventually bring in is corruption to the public eye. Even after that if the people doesn’t bother about it, then no one can help it 🙂

  • walter

    Bob, they do. Unbelievable but the sad truth.

    Germany was the last country that didn’t allow this. But then Fifa had to pay much taxes (VAT and other stuff) and this made their income less. So from then on and South Africa was the first they made it clear that they wouldn’t have to pay any tax or the bidding country would lose certainly.
    In Belgium the government promised this to fifa (without really informing the people about it) and I thought the Dutch government only said that they could not break their own tax rules. Much to the displease of Fifa.

  • Gooner Gal

    @ Tony, thank for this informative article. Football needs someone or lot’s more people/organisation’s/sponsor’s to challenge FIFA & UEFA as they will not sort themselves out from within. So that it recieves a killer blow or death by a thousand cuts. In my opinion FIFA has morphed into a dangerous, amoral and powerful organisation with an insatiable hunger for money.

    It will be interesting to observe if FIFA, who see themselves above national laws, also disregard EC law too. If the EU become’s it’s enemy, we may begin to see seeds of discontent blossom. European clubs would be in a much stronger position if the were backed by the EU.

    I live in hope for the day when the tail stop’s wagging the dog. FIFA has lost is way, like the english FA in it’s current form is not good for the sport. I applaud Karl-Heinz Rummenigge for speaking up and I hope many more will do the same.

  • Clerkenwell Gooner

    If K-H R and Bayern are pushing for this, it could be great news, given that, as far as I am aware, the Bundesliga is pretty much a model of how to run football successfully:
    – clubs draw large crowds
    – are committed to fans, if not fan-owned
    – league is highly competitive and
    – produces incredible talent

    while at national level, the German footballing authorities, in concert with Austria, have proved themselves capable of
    – putting on a memorable World Cup in 2006
    – hosting an epic Women’s World Cup this year

    Like other posters here, I’d be horrified if intra-European club competition got turned over to Roman and others in the billionaire boys’ club, but the Germans I’d trust to deal with it.

    As long as any new body pays tax on its earnings – think of it as “giving back to the community”. Enough with the offshore/tax-free nonsense – it’s insulting, particularly to a poor country such as South Africa. (For that alone, I’d be happy to see the back of FIFA.)

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Balls to Blatter ,fuck FIFA an UEFA,and bring on the Revolution!
    Lets worry about the club owners influence later – with so many nationalities involved no one person can hijack it easily .
    Its time for a ‘Kerry Packer ‘ like takeover of football.
    Where do I sign up ?

  • John L

    What is needed is a system of checks and balances.

    If the clubs have all the power, there will be corruption. People often act in self-interest. People with power more so. It’s as true for corporations as it is football clubs. There have to be laws and a capable government to enforce them(wouldnt that be nice)), in order to protect people. Fifa is ideally that governing body, but as we all know, falls sadly short.

    If there is revolution that brings the clubs to absolute power it will corrupt in time. Here are a few ideas of mine, that could help provide some checks and balances so that one group cannot own the game.

    Clubs form a coalition, based on continent, similar to FIFA, but whose soul interest is club football. Hopefully this will provide the clubs a more organized front in order to stand up to FIFA.

    The clubs or proposed coalition are allowed into the FIFA electoral process.

    Clubs and Countries have weighted votes. i.e Spain, because they are a big football nation, with a strong domestic league have a more powerful vote than, say Thailand. Its almost hard to say that as I have some moral issue with it, but the fact is that equal votes is a big part of why FIFA has become so corrupt and why someone like Blatter has stayed in power so long.

    Some revenue from World Cups, European Cups, Copa etc is given to the club coalition to be distributed back into the clubs who pay the wages, and train players from a young age.

    FIFA, the Club Coalition, and FA’s form a council which decides on changes to the rules of the game. Such as goal line tech, replays, extra refs etc.
    Similar councils to regulate corruption, finances, refs etc would be formed but with laws against any one person being on multiple councils.

    All Council, FIFA, Club coalition, FA etc meetings are recorded and made accessible to the public.
    Fiscal accounts should also be made accessible to the public. i.e World Cup revenue, committee member salaries etc.

    ….I feel like some of these things could help distribute the power in the game more evenly. Which would limit the current corruption and make it harder in the future as well.