Manchester United yesterday joined the growing debate over compensation for players on international duty when the club's chief executive, David Gill, demanded a share of World Cup revenue for the clubs.
Amid increasing club-versus-country tension in the build-up to Germany, Gill said that simply insuring players who risk injury during the month-long tournament was not sufficient to protect those who pay the wages of England internationals and those from the other 31 countries.
"It's a hot topic," said Gill, who was speaking at the Soccerex forum, on business and football, in London. "We fundamentally believe our players are the assets who provide the income for the World Cup. It generates a huge profit, but in essence, that is being produced by the clubs.
"Under the regulations, we have to do that for free. We are not saying there should be pound-for-pound reimbursement of a particular player's wages because obviously there are different salaries in different countries. But there should be a top slice off the [World Cup] income and it should be distributed to the clubs of participating players on an equal basis. That way, the Trinidad and Tobago league benefits as much as ours.''
Gill's comments will only serve to fuel an ongoing stand-off between Fifa, the sport's world governing body, and the G14 group the powerful cartel of 18 leading European clubs over how to stop the Uniteds of this world losing out when their players perform at international level. Already, plans are at an advanced stage to put in place some kind of insurance policy to appease the G14's concern about their highly paid stars returning home injured, but a slice of World Cup profits which last time amounted to £636m takes the debate a lot further.
Gill said insurance cover was the least the clubs could expect come June. "Look at Louis Saha," he said. "He's in fantastic form at the moment but, at the start of the season, he was injured and got those injuries through going away with France. We clearly want the national team to be successful and recognise that Uefa and Fifa distribute their profits for the good of the game, but they do not have a monopoly."
Gill used the example of another United player, Kieran Richardson, to explain what clubs were up against when players are put in the shop window playing for their country. "Keiran did well with England in Chicago last summer, but then comes in and wants more money because he views himself as an England player. I don't buy that argument."
Later, Gill said any percentage of World Cup revenue to compensate clubs could be worked out subsequently. "There is no way we want to lessen the importance of the World Cup but this club is spending £80m on wages and we are letting someone use them for free. This proposal is suitable and workable."
Gill also hit back at the gaming company Mansion for ending shirt sponsorship negotiations. Mansion made claims of "double dealing" and withdrew from negotiations for a £70m deal, insisting they did not realise United were talking to other groups. The club initially denied this, but Gill said: "They chose to go public. If you look at the facts behind what they said, we clearly didn't agree to an exclusivity period. Every meeting I was at, or one of my team was at, we made it clear that was the case.
"We're very comfortable that we dealt with it very appropriately and we believe we will be announcing a deal that is seen to be the best deal for the club."