|Author (Person)||Abbott, Dennis|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.8, No.40, 7.11.02, p1|
THE heads of Europe's wealthiest football clubs, led by Manchester United, announced a new goal this week - to forge closer links with the EU institutions.
The G-14 group of clubs believe they must 'play the game' in Brussels because of the impact Union laws can have on their bottom line.
Peter Kenyon, chief executive of Manchester United, told European Voice: 'The importance of regulation on our business is totally evident - anyone can see sport is not immune. We've got to be closer to the EU and more proactive in our thinking.'
Kenyon was in Brussels for a meeting of the G-14 assembly, along with his counterparts from Real Madrid, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Porto, Paris St Germain, Ajax, PSV Eindhoven, Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Olympique Lyonnais.
The bosses see media rights, competition and employment issues - all of which the European Commission can crucially influence - as key areas of common interest in which they need to make their voice heard.
Kenyon said he realised the importance the EU institutions could have for soccer in the wake of the landmark 1995 'Bosman Ruling' by the European Court of Justice. Lawyers acting for Jean-Marc Bosman, a Belgian player, successfully argued that football's transfer rules were not compatible with EU laws guaranteeing freedom of movement.
The result of this was players could move to another club on a 'free transfer' after the contract with their team had expired. The ruling was later adopted by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), which covers more than 60 countries.
Kenyon said many clubs had initially failed to appreciate the impact the ruling would have in forcing up players' salaries, just as TV revenues began to fall.
'We've been in a transition period with clubs living in a pre-Bosman transfer and post-Bosman wages era,' he said.
Five years after the judgement, that impact continues to be felt.
Kenyon said major clubs were not immune from the fall-out. The Italian club Lazio, for instance, still owed Manchester United €19 million on the 2001 transfer of Dutch defender Jaap Stam. So far, they had only paid just over €6 million of the agreed €25 million fee.
The combination of soaring wage bills and falling TV revenue has resulted in the G-14 taking drastic action. The chiefs decided on Tuesday (5 November) to cap the salaries of both playing and non-playing staff to a ceiling of 70% of each club's turnover from the 2005-2006 season.
That will not be a problem for United, even though the club recently signed new contracts with star players David Beckham and Roy Keane, said to be worth €125,000 a week and €155,000 a week respectively. Kenyon said wages last season still accounted for only 49% of Manchester's €228 million turnover. 'We made a profit of £32 million [€50.5 million] and we're debt-free,' he added.
The G-14 group, which opened a new office in the centre of Brussels this week, has already opened a dialogue with the Commission. In April, Kenyon, along with Pedro Lopez Jiminéz (Real), Karl Heinz Rummenigge (Bayern) and Michael van Praag (Ajax) met Education and Culture Commissioner Viviane Reding to discuss audiovisual rights, youth schemes and the 'autonomy of sport' - recognised in the 2000 Nice Treaty.
The Party of Wales member said the U-turn would hurt preparations by his national team for its forthcoming fixture against Azerbaijan.
He said: 'FIFAs handling of this matter has been shambolic. They have once again shown breathtaking incompetence.'
The heads of Europe's wealthiest football clubs have announced a new goal - to forge closer links with the EU institutions. The issue was discussed at a meeting of the G-14 group of clubs in Brussels, November 2002.
|Subject Categories||Culture, Education and Research|