|Author (Person)||Frost, Laurence|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.8, No.20, 23.5.02, p7|
EUROPE'S leading football clubs should seek EU approval for their proposal to limit players' salaries or they risk possible fines, the Commission has warned.
A spokeswoman for Mario Monti, the competition commissioner, said the EU executive was 'following with interest' details of an agreement between Europe's 14 top clubs, but had not yet been notified of the plans.
The 'G14' group - including Manchester United, Ajax, AC Milan, Real Madrid and Juventus - last week announced proposals to limit squad sizes, transfer fees and wages in a bid to avert the financial crisis facing professional football.
However, such an agreement could be construed as price-fixing by the Commission, which has the power to block the deal and fine offenders up to 10 of their turnover if it has not been formally notified.
'If there was an agreement between clubs to introduce a salary cap for players we would have to look into it,' said Monti's spokeswoman Amelia Torres.
The agreement was announced after a meeting in Glasgow on 14 May, ahead of the Champions' League final.
This year's winner, Real Madrid, was recently forced to sell its training ground and has reported debts of €275 million.
'The aim is to reduce competition between clubs in the transfer market,' said Thomas Kurth, general manager of the G14's Brussels-based secretariat.
The self-regulation would help avoid clubs bidding against each other in player auctions, he said - a practice that 'has the effect of raising the prices of even mediocre players'. The G14 clubs account for up to 40 of the European transfer market.
Sports analysts say spending controls are badly needed by Europe's clubs, caught between rising wage bills and declining TV income from digital pay-per-view matches.
Under the agreement, G14 clubs have pledged to limit salaries and transfer fees to a fixed proportion of turnover, and to reduce squads to 25 players.
The measures are due to be finalised at the group's next general assembly in August.
Gordon Taylor, president of the international players' union FIFPRO, said the agreement was unlikely to stick.
Without enforcement from football's governing bodies, he said, the deal remains a gentleman's agreement, 'and there are too few gentlemen around'.
Europe's footballing authority, UEFA, confirmed that EU rules prevented it from stepping in to enforce spending limits, but welcomed the G14 initiative.
As the Commission's latest comments indicate, however, the agreement is likely to come under the microscope even without UEFA's formal backing.
But, privately, some officials suggest the executive is likely to clear the cost-cutting under a special exemption, providing consumers are shown to benefit.
'I think what we will have to do in the end is see whether it's in the common interest,' said a Commission official.
'If the result is that football fans will see ticket prices stabilise then obviously there would be grounds for an exemption.'
Officials are concerned that any contaminated meat products brought back into Europe from South Korea may cause a fresh epidemic.
The outbreak comes just over a week before the tournament, co-hosted by Japan, kicks off on 31 May.
The South Korean government has already slaughtered nearly 12,000 pigs.
It has ordered the culling of a further 7,300, on four farms, and vowed to slay all 300,000 animals in the infected area should there be further outbreaks.
Europe's leading football clubs should seek EU approval for their proposal to limit players' salaries or they risk possible fines, the European Commission has warned.
|Subject Categories||Culture, Education and Research, Internal Markets|