For God, country, and at least pounds 1m

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The Independent Online
IT USED to be regarded as an honour to play football for England, but it seems that is no longer enough. Not content with a four-year deal that could earn them pounds 600,000 each as England squad members - in addition to earnings from their clubs and sponsors and a share of a pounds 1m jackpot if England win the World Cup - Alan Shearer and his comrades are holding out for more.

Details emerged yesterday of a deal the Football Association is offering players, who have so far failed to agree terms. A regular England squad member would earn pounds 600,000 over the next four years. In return they would have to sign 500 items such as balls and shirts at the team hotel every year and make an average of three personal appearances in 12 months. They would be paid an additional pounds 5,000 for each appearance.

The main sticking-point for the players is whether they can continue to wear their "Three Lions" England shirts while working for sponsors who do not have agreements with the FA and are possible commercial rivals.

The players can still ask to use the Three Lions emblem for personal deals and the FA insists authorisation is given in nine out of 10 cases. But the players believe they should not have to seek permission first. A senior FA official said yesterday: "No one wants to call the England players greedy ... but they also have to have a sense of responsibility to the official sponsors and to the game itself. We will not be giving in."