Imagine a World Cup with no Messi, no Ronaldo, no Rooney, no De Rossi, no Robben and no Gotze. Pretty scary…
As of today a dispute between FIFA and the European Club Association (ECA) boiled over, with FIFA President Sepp Blatter reeling from revelations that some of the world’s most famous clubs may withdraw players from the biggest competitions on the calendar.
Everything has come to a head over disagreements about the International schedule. Under the previous arrangement, which expires in 2014, clubs had no say in soccer’s calendar as FIFA only covers national governing bodies. More so than this, there is very little financial reparation for the clubs providing players for the international tournaments or qualifiers.
On top of this many clubs take issue with the amount of games that are scheduled. The current calendar consists of 12 international games a year, including friendlies. It has been proposed that 9 games would be more viable and that there would therefore be less burden of insurance costs, as well as ensuring that the biggest clubs do not lose their stars during a packed season.
Blatter has registered his shock that ECA have gone public with their displeasure with the whole situation, but ECA leader Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, a prominent figure within German soccer, has hinted that negotiations have been arduous and have threatened to collapse for several months.
Blatter is no stranger to controversy, and although every bit of resistance he has faced has been resolved from within FIFA in recent times, he now has to take on the collective might of some of the best supported and wealthiest soccer institutions in soccer. Could he take them on head first?
Blatter may have to tread on egg shells with this one. On the one hand FIFA will want international football to draw big crowds, something they may struggle to do with less glamour friendlies penciled in to the calendar. There will be no England versus Holland; no Brazil versus some other big draw in a European venue.
However, the big European clubs obviously feel they can pick up the slack. By removing fixture congestion it is also entirely likely that players may be able to play better soccer as their stars are less likely to collapse, exhausted. On top of this it can only be a good thing that the big Football Associations in England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and elsewhere are forced to make their domestic competitions more interesting for the spectators.
This may run as the clubs want it to. The ECA don’t look set to back down and Blatter has a lot to consider. A meeting between the two was set for the 5th of March, but it is in Zurich, Blatter’s back yard. Do not be surprised if Rummenigge ‘forgets’ to show up that day…