Football: Parry's call for calm

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The Independent Online
As Rick Parry urged the football community in Britain not to panic over Wednesday's ruling by the European Court of Justice which declared football's transfer system illegal, the Heritage Secretary, Virginia Bottomley, was last night under pressure to call a round-table conference of the football authorities in this country.

Parry, the chief executive of the Premier League, said: "There has been a bizarre, hysterical reaction even by football standards. If there are going to be changes they might want to take some of our thoughts on board. My feeling is that the Commission will probably follow the Advocate General's guidelines, but will want some sort of negotiated change that works."

The ruling was being studied by Mrs Bottomley and the Minister for Sport, Iain Sproat, and Whitehall sources said they would not be drawn until the final judgment was delivered. But Chris Smith, the Labour spokesman, said talks were urgently needed to discuss the "serious implications" of the ruling. Urging Mrs Bottomley to host talks, Mr Smith, the Shadow Secretary of State for National Heritage, told her by letter that small and large clubs would lose because of the judgment. "The PFA and the other bodies have declared that this pronouncement, which as you know is likely to be rubber-stamped by the European Court of Justice, will have serious financial implications for both small and large football clubs in Britain.

"Small clubs will lose a valuable source of revenue when they are prevented from retaining transfer fees for players they have trained up and sold on, while millions of pounds will be wiped off the value of the larger clubs, whose accounting includes the value of their top players," Smith said.

Sources close to the Heritage Secretary said it was unlikely the Government would intervene. "Iain Sproat has repeatedly said it is for the governing bodies to run their own affairs," said one source. John Major is expected to call for a report from Mrs Bottomley on the issue, to ensure it does not undermine the Government's commitment to sport in the community.

In Brussels yesterday it became clear that Wednesday's interim judgement will not have the force of law, even if it is fully endorsed by the court by the end of the year. This is because the court is likely to allow Uefa, the governing body of the sport in Europe, to put together new proposals on footballers' freedom of movement, after consultations with the 15 European Union national governments.

Eric Hall, another view, page 16