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Clubs leader Rummenigge hails Europe success story

September 10, 2013

GENEVA (AP) — Re-elected Tuesday as the voice of Europe’s top football clubs, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge believes the continent should not be ashamed of its wealth and importance in the world game.

Rummenigge told The Associated Press in an interview that “European football worked hard to arrive at this stage.”

“It’s not something where we have to be ashamed. It’s a fact, of course, that Europe is by far the most important continent in football,” said the European Club Association chairman, whose duties in a renewed two-year mandate will include persuading FIFA to give his members a greater share of future World Cup revenues.

That request, after FIFA already agreed to distribute $70 million among clubs worldwide sending players to Brazil next year, is being made after European clubs spent heavily on players in the summer transfer window.

Real Madrid was criticized for its record 100 million euros ($132 million) purchase of Tottenham winger Gareth Bale during a Spanish economic downturn and high unemployment levels.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter noted last week it was “definitely a European market,” as FIFA calculated clubs exchanged $3.367 billion in transfers this year.

Blatter also criticized what he perceived was a European sense of entitlement in football politics, telling Inside World Football website “we must accept that football has moved away from being a European and South American sport.”

Still, Rummenigge highlighted how the money circulated among clubs in subsequent transfer deals, including to clubs outside Europe.

“It remains in football, which is the most important thing,” said the former West Germany forward, who was sold by Bayern to Inter Milan in a multi-million dollar deal in 1984.

“People said, ‘These crazy Italians spending so much on this one player.’ These amounts, it’s not easy to understand,” said Rummenigge, adding it was “curiously helpful” for fans and the media to spend more time discussing football clubs’ finances.

Days after signing Bale, Madrid announced this week it had income of 520.9 million euros ($690 million) last season and made a profit of 36.9 million euros ($48.9 million).

Madrid, with a squad packed with internationals from Spain and elsewhere, will probably receive one of the biggest shares of the clubs’ slice of FIFA money next year.

However, the 214-member ECA’s cooperation agreement with FIFA expires next July and renewal talks recently broke down.

“It is a very strange story. A couple of months ago we had a deal,” said Rummenigge, revealing it was “forgotten” after FIFA said it needed to work out further financial details.

The ECA is in “no hurry” to complete an agreement, and Rummenigge is prepared to wait until June 2015, after the next FIFA presidential election.

“For us it is very important to know who is the next president of FIFA because we have to collaborate with this person very strongly,” he said. “I believe our position is strong. It is up to FIFA to show us they are serious regarding governance, regarding involvement in the decision-making process.”

That process ideally includes FIFA listening to clubs’ views on switching the 2022 World Cup in Qatar from its June-July slot, and drawing up the 2019-2022 international calendar of match dates which dictates when clubs must release players for national duty.

“They are using our players, paid by our clubs, so I believe it’s more than normal and rational what we are requesting by FIFA,” Rummenigge said.

Though Rummenigge and Blatter have occasionally traded barbs in public statements, FIFA has regularly met the ECA’s requests.

FIFA has now abolished international friendly dates in February and August. It also insures players’ salaries to cover injuries on national team duty — a policy that could also be worth millions of dollars to clubs in other continents.

“FIFA and UEFA, they know that ECA is a serious partner,” Rummenigge said.

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