FIFA president Sepp Blatter moved on Thursday to avoid a
collision with Europe's politicians on how soccer should be run in
the future and prevent possible interference from sports
The announcement by Blatter in Barcelona of an agreement with
the world players union, FIFPro is the first step in answering many
of the political concerns about the problems facing the game in the
Up until now, Blatter has remained opposed to any views by EU
governments, the European Commission - the EU's executive arm - and
the European Parliament on how to address issues such as
corruption, salaries and ownership within the sport.
In September, Blatter and IOC president Jacques Rogge wrote to
EU lawmakers and politicians protesting about proposed changes to
the way sport will be governed in the EU.
European football's governing body UEFA is seeking the adoption
by the 25 EU governments of a European Sports Review completed in
April which recommends closer control of sport in the EU including
salary caps on soccer players and the monitoring of agents.
Up until now, FIFA said they opposed the paper, but Blatter said
this was a "misunderstanding" and said FIFA has been targetted
"Yes we want autonomy for the game, but we are not above the
laws of any land and we want to work with the political leaders to
find the solutions," Blatter told Reuters in a phone interview.
"For instance we would sign straight up to the first part of the
report and we accept the concerns within the second part.
"But we will find and implement the solutions ourselves with
At the heart of the FIFA's concerns about the review is a clause
calling for a European Sports Agency. But sources close to the
matter said this idea has now been dropped.
Last week, Blatter met UEFA president Lannart Johansson in a bid
to avoid a showdown between the world's governing body and its
Following the meeting, both agreed on soccer's right to solve
its own problems, but also acknowledged that a political dialogue
was also necessary.
Blatter confirmed that he will meet British sports minister
Richard Caborn, who launched the review under his country's
presidency of the EU in December, later this month.
"I want to work openely with him, but soccer, I believe, is
still strong enough to solve its own problems and if I can show
this and prove this to him, then there will be no need for new
laws," he said.
The European Commission, under its president Jose Manuel
Barroso, has always favoured self-regulation by industry and less
red tape from Brussels, with many EU governments advocating the
same approach, most noteably Britain.
"We still have a long way to go, but we welcome this attitude by
Sepp Blatter," a spokesman for Caborn said.
"If we all sit down, the minister believes that in the end,
there won't be much difference of opinion."
Thursday's memorandum of understanding" signed by Blatter and
FIFPro chief Philippe Piat at the Nou Camp stadium vowed to resolve
transfer disputes more quickly, fight doping, co-ordinate the
international match calendar and combat racism.
"The unions, or in this case the players are at the heart of any
industry and agreement with them is a very key step in going
forawrd with a view of cleaning up the game," Blatter said.
(Reuters November 3, 2006)