Europe's most powerful clubs will this week mount their biggest ever challenge to Fifa as they seek more power in the way football is run and greater control over their own players. In the latest club-versus-country showdown, the European Club Association – led by Karl-Heinz Rummenigge – will issue a strongly-worded warning on Tuesday threatening possible revolt if Fifa and Uefa fail to include them when sorting out the international calendar.
The ECA, which represents 197 clubs, have lost patience with the governing authorities and are prepared to refuse to release players for future fixtures, although this is considered a last resort. The clubs also want a greater share of television revenues from international fixtures and are demanding Fifa clean up their act after the recent bribery scandals.
Last week, Rummenigge, the former West German striker, warned of a club-led revolution if Fifa fail to change. Although the ECA have a signed memorandum of understanding up to 2014, they want wholesale change thereafter. "After this, we are not bound to accept Fifa's regulations any more," said Rummenigge, adding that Fifa had to address "democracy, transparency and governance".
Sepp Blatter, who recently won a fourth term of office as Fifa president, has been under intense pressure to repair the organisation's image and is due to announce his proposals for cleaning up the game at the end of October. Rummenigge says a split cannot be ruled out if changes are not introduced.
"The clubs are unhappy," he said. "Fifa and Uefa need the clubs for a World Cup or European Championship. But the clubs don't need them. Theoretically we could play Bundesliga and Champions' League without the associations."
ECA sources are playing down the breakaway threat, but Tuesday's general assembly in Geneva is pivotal. "We are concentrating on governance, which is becoming more important as a result of the recent scandals," one senior source told the Independent on Sunday. "We want a greater say in the decision-making process [and] a reduction of dates in the international calendar in favour of club football."
Last month's pre-season friendly was case in point. The ECA want the issue addressed quickly. Otherwise, post-2014, they will no longer be legally bound to release their players. Threats of breakaways and refusal to release players are being treated with disdain by Uefa boss Michel Platini who says he will throw clubs out of Europe if they try to go it alone. He also disputed that the players are having to play too many unnecessary fixtures. "Why are the clubs always blaming national teams?" Platini said in an interview with Insideworldfootball.biz. "What have Bayern Munich and some of the others been doing recently? Going on pre-season tours to earn money."
But ECA officials claim they are not the ones at fault. "Uefa have their agenda and we have ours," said one insider who said "certain proposals" will be made on Tuesday. "We represent different interests, but we have to improve the relationship with the governing bodies. We've lost trust in them."