Taylor tackles Fifa president in transfer dispute

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The Independent Football

The search for a new transfer system for world football suffered a major setback yesterday when players' representatives boycotted a meeting of the game's rulers and Gordon Taylor, of the players' union, was embroiled in a stand-up slanging match with Sepp Blatter, the president of Fifa, football's world governing body.

The search for a new transfer system for world football suffered a major setback yesterday when players' representatives boycotted a meeting of the game's rulers and Gordon Taylor, of the players' union, was embroiled in a stand-up slanging match with Sepp Blatter, the president of Fifa, football's world governing body.

The developments came as Fifa's Task Force - also comprising members from Uefa, European football's governing body - met to discuss final details for a new transfer system which will appease the European Commission. The Commission wants the current system modified in order for football to fall in line with other industries. Its main argument is that the current system restricts players' freedom of movement because clubs can demand fees for employees who are under contract and stop them moving elsewhere if those fees are not paid.

Taylor, who as well as being the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association in England is the chairman of the international players' union Fifpro, refused to attend yesterday's crucial meeting, arguing that the Task Force had not listened to players' demands before deciding on a course of action. He also claimed that the Task Force's proposals were ambiguous and doomed to failure.

Instead of attending the meeting, Fifpro sent a list of its alternative proposals under the impression that they would be discussed fully. To Taylor's consternation they were ignored completely, so he went to Fifa's headquarters and arrived just as Blatter was telling a packed press conference of his "disappointment" at Fifpro's action.

Blatter demanded that Taylor take the stand and explain himself. Taylor began by stating Fifpro's grievances and then Blatter, clearly taken aback, checked his watch and then shouted: "Why did you not attend today? Answer the question."

It was an almost unbelievable outburst from a man in such a high-powered position, particularly as he had actually invited Taylor to speak.

"We put proposals to the meeting on the understanding that they would be fully discussed," Taylor countered.

"We have attended at least a dozen meetings and the main problems have been continually ignored. We have tried to reach an agreement and have attended all negotiations with an open mind but I have my members to represent and we feel the Task Force is only concerned with amending the present regulations to suit themselves. It appears they have a hidden agenda."

A stunned Blatter, pointing at Taylor, said: "He told me he would attend today's meeting. I very much regret what Fifpro have done and when we present our findings to the European Commission in Brussels next Tuesday we will have to tell them what has happened."

Blatter then said the Task Force would push ahead with its plan but conceded that without the backing of the players it was unlikely any new proposal would be accepted by the Commission next Tuesday.

The differences of opinion between the players' representatives and the Task Force are complicated but revolve around two fundamental issues. Firstly Fifpro believes Fifa has conceded too much ground to the Commission and wants to alter the system more than necessary. Secondly, accepting that some changes are needed, Fifpro disagrees with Fifa about about the minimum and maximum lengths of contracts that players should be offered under a new system.

What is clear is that the new system is likely to involve only one or two "transfer windows" each season, when all player moves will occur.

"Even if there will be two transfer periods during the season, one player will only be allowed to change clubs once in a season," Blatter said.

A second widely-anticipated change is a ban on international transfers for players under 18 to protect youngsters, especially from poorer countries, being exploited.

A third issue to be addressed concerns the protection of clubs who invest in youth training schemes.

"We'll say that, until 23, a player is still a trainee and, as a result, his departure will lead to the payment of an indemnity," Blatter said of the proposals he plans to put to the Commission.

Blatter said the fourth point to be discussed would be the length of any transition period before the current transfer system is scrapped and any new system put in place.

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