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Arsenal lose and UEFA win

Arsene Wenger famously once said that international managers were like third rate car thieves.  The thief steals the car, runs it until it is wrecked, abandons it, and leaves it to you to pick up the pieces and rebuild it. 

Although he was speaking long before the 2007 injury to Robin Van Persie, Robin’s case turned out to be an exact example of Mr Wenger’s view.

The one organisation that looked like it might stand up to the car thieves of football was the G14 – who have been taking legal action against Fifa and UEFA in order to get compensation for such injuries.  Throughout the case the answer of the international bodies has been pathetic; the national sides, they argued, might not be able to afford compensation.  The answer, “then don’t take the players” never occurred to them.

It is hard to think of any other walk of life (apart from military service) in which a body is allowed to walk over the rights and responsibilities of an employer, and then expect the employer to sort it all out – without compensation. 

The legal cases have now been abandoned by G14 – including most significantly  the case by Charleroi over Abdelmajid Oulmers and by Lyon over Eric Abidal.  UEFA has agreed to pay up when players are injured, and a new organisation – a sort of G100 – will be set up instead, representing top clubs from all associations.

But problems remain – not least for internationally based clubs like Arsenal FC.   The end of G14 means the end of any concerted action to get the timing or arrangements of the Africa Cup of Nations changed, so that the level of disruption to the European leagues (the people who pay the players’ salaries) is minimised.   The level of compensation is not yet set – and this could lead to more disruption.

But worst of all the multiplicity of international games remains.   Most Arsenal fans agree that they would much sooner watch Arsenal of a weekend, than have no EPL games and instead have international matches.   Who is now representing these fans – the people who pay 50% of the income of the club?  Who is taking their opinions into account?   Seemingly no one.

So as before we are faced by a future in which many of our players will be injured playing for international teams that are of a much lower standard than Arsenal, on pitches that would never be seen in the EPL for managers who have no interest in the long-term health and fitness of the players.  Players will be asked to play through pain and injury for “national pride”, and then Arsenal will be expected to pay them for months while they recover, ready for the next round of nonsense.

I had hoped G14 would get more out of the deal – but now it seems we have to look elsewhere for help.

You can read the previous blogs in this series below, and more articles about Arsenal, and the strange people who run football in the UK on www.emiratesstadium.info  

Tony Attwood, 16 January 2008

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