Football: Fifa target action on transfer fees

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FOOTBALL'S WORLD governing body, Fifa, said yesterday it planned to bring in new rules to stem the rise in the number of matches being played and stop transfer fees spiralling out of control.

"There is a risk of saturation in top-level football. Transfer fees are 10 times higher than they were a decade ago. It means we will have to take some fairly drastic action," said the Fifa secretary general, Michel Zen-Ruffinen.

He attacked Uefa, Europe's football governing body, for the massive increase in the number of televised matches being shown this season, and said saturation coverage could eventually drive viewers away. There will be 64 European matches broadcast in the space of three days this week - eight Champions' League matches each on Tuesday and yesterday and 48 Uefa Cup first round, second leg games which are being played tonight.

"We very much regret this development. It's not in anyone's interest," he said. "We want television channels to reserve certain days for football, so there are more matches on one day and then football-free periods to renew viewers' appetites for the game."

Zen-Ruffinen said that Fifa planned to reduce competitions and qualifying matches, and introduce a co-ordinated international timetable in a bid to reduce the number of games top footballers had to play. It had also temporarily shelved plans to hold the World Cup every two years instead of every four.

Zen-Ruffinen said Fifa also wanted to impose a ceiling on transfer fees for players, who can now command sums of up to pounds 35m, and reduce agents' commissions, which were "sometimes scandalous".

Fifa would also try to influence players' salaries, Zen-Ruffinen said. But he added that Fifa was dubious over whether setting an upper limit on pay would be legal.