Football: Aigner hits out at greed culture

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GERHARD AIGNER, the general secretary of Uefa, European football's ruling body, yesterday delivered a scathing attack on the increasing commercialisation of football and warned that the money men were in danger of alienating fans.

"The game would suffer a fatal blow if selfish objectives, which merely have financial benefit, were eventually to lead to the disintegration of the football movement," Aigner, the No 2 in Uefa's hierarchy, said.

Opening the Expo Football world trade fair in Cannes, Aigner said fans were becoming increasingly fed up with disloyal millionaire players and unscrupulous owners. "Fans find it unacceptable that the ownership of their club should change without their interests being taken into account," he said. "Fans also find it degrading when their club is misused... as a parking lot for talented players who do not bother to bond with their club."

In his opening address to the conference, attended by more than a thousand of the most influential people in the game, Aigner said the Bosman ruling, abolishing transfer fees for out-of-contract players, had caused an "earthquake" from which Europe was still recovering.

"Some of the effects have been more serious than we thought possible," he said. He added that between 60 and 70 complaints were currently lodged with the European Commission relating to sporting matters and he urged the EU to leave it to the sports organisations to apply their rules.

Aigner also criticised Europe's wealthiest clubs. Without naming names, he said the biggest clubs were ignoring the needs of the rest. "We are disappointed that various clubs no longer want to share responsibility for development of football as a whole," he said. It seemed a clear reference to the elite clubs who have forced Uefa to change the structure of the European club competitions and make extra money available for the expanded Champions' League.