Countries pressed to pay clubs for players

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The Independent Online

The exclusive pressure group for wealthy European clubs, G14, is to step up its campaign to persuade national associations to provide compensation for the loss of players to international duty.

The self-selected body, which includes Manchester United and Liverpool, intends to target friendly matches which are often perceived to be arranged for financial rather than footballing motives.

Peter Kenyon, the Manchester United chairman, speaking as a vice-president of G14, yesterday outlined the group's argument. Pointing at the commercial development of major tournaments, and money-spinning friendlies such as those played by France in Australia and Chile, Kenyon noted that national associations were not only taking players away from the clubs who continued to pay their wages, but were also making money out of them.

"The consensus in G14 is that there should be some compensatory allowances for players on international duty," said Kenyon. "We do understand the role of the FAs. We are asking they understand the cost implications for clubs."

At the heart of the problem is the rising cost of player wages. For example, a senior player could spend seven weeks preparing for and playing in the World Cup. During that time his club could pay him £500,000-plus in wages. Yet his international commitments mean he will have to rest when the club get him back.

Some members of G14 want to press for the FAs to take over the wage bill, but most accept that is impractical as countries such as Finland and Wales could not afford to pick up the pay packets of players like Jari Litmanen and Ryan Giggs. One suggestion is for a levy on World Cup and other tournament profits to be divided between clubs on a pro rata basis. Another is that clubs pay the wages when they use players in friendlies.

Thomas Kurth, the chief executive of G14, said the principle had already been admitted by some FAs. "Germany and the Netherlands pay compensation to their own clubs when they take their players. That demonstrates there is a good reason."

FAs will argue that clubs benefit by association, but Kenyon said: "The image of a club's players playing for the national side is very positive, but the ability of a club to commercialise that is insignificant."

The group, which has received a membership application from Chelsea, is also discussing ways of limiting wage bills. With the clubs constantly seeking to maximise revenue, the development of the Champions' League is another issue. No change in structure is anticipated, however, before 2006.

There has been severe criticism of G14, especially as the performance of some of its members, such as Marseilles and Paris St-Germain, do not justify Kurth's claim that G14 should be listened to as it represents "leading clubs, leading companies in the professional game". Thus there was relief at the qualification, at Old Trafford on Wednesday, of two members, Manchester United and Bayern Munich, into the last eight of the Champions' League. They join Real Madrid and, possibly, Liverpool, Barcelona and Porto. At least two quarter-finalists, those from Arsenal's group, will be non-members.

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