UK and Germany unite in transfer fees row

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The Independent Football

Britain today lined up with traditional footballing foe Germany to warn the European Union off "radical" changes in the football transfer fee system.

Britain today lined up with traditional footballing foe Germany to warn the European Union off "radical" changes in the football transfer fee system.

Tony Blair and Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder issued a joint statement calling for care in reforming the system amid concerns that smaller clubs could suffer.

The EU believes the current transfer arrangements are a breach of European rules on the free movement of individuals and has given football's governing bodies until the end of October to come up with a better system.

But the two premiers said they feared a major shake-up would be bad for small clubs: "We acknowledge the current system is not perfect. We fear however that a radical reform could have a negative impact on the structures of football in Europe," they said in a joint statement.

"We share concerns that many smaller professional clubs would struggle to survive. We believe that any solution has to balance carefully the justified interests of the players, the clubs and the associations."

FIFA and UEFA - the world and European governing bodies for football - are now working on alternative proposals to present for EU scrutiny.

The two premiers, who discussed the issue at a meeting of world leaders in New York this week, offered their help in resolving the problem.

Their full statement said: "Professional football has a proud history in both our countries. All clubs are deeply rooted in the life of their towns and cities and provide a rich source of civic pride.

"Football fans are enthusiastic about their sport and feel a close loyalty to their clubs. And we want it to stay this way.

"The European Union has criticised the present system of transfer fees and work contracts in professional football.

"With a view to ensuring freedom of movement of labour, the European Commission has asked for a change to the system. This has met with resistance from the clubs.

"We acknowledge the current system is not perfect. We fear however that a radical reform could have a negative impact on the structures of football in Europe.

"We share concerns that many small professional clubs would struggle to survive. We believe that any solution has to balance carefully the justified interests of the players, the clubs and the associations.

"It is of course for the football associations to devise alternative proposals to present to the Commission.

"We are pleased that the Commission has allowed them more time to do so. We also welcome the Commission's willingness to work with football to find a solution that is good for all.

"We offer our help in seeking to resolve the issue.

"The clubs must be able to rely on a system that gives them sufficient opportunity to train young players, build up their teams and keep the game healthy at all levels.

"We look to the Commission to be sympathetic to the special needs of professional football in seeking a solution."

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