Tug of war on the purse strings

The World Cup is the financial fountain from which all FIFA's riches spring. At the 2002 tournament in Korea and Japan, FIFA earned GBP 636 million (1.4 billion Swiss francs) and they stand to bring in even more from this year's finals in Germany.

The money will be FIFA's budget for the next four years, and provides the income for all their operations, competitions, development and assistant programmes.

Increased television revenue and some high-yielding sponsorship deals that have been signed over the last couple of years mean FIFA's accounts look even more healthy. But the more the fountain gushes, the more cash-thirsty club owners try to divert the stream. Envious eyes are casting acquisitive glances at FIFA's coffers. G14, the grouping of 18 elite European clubs, is demanding a one-fifth share of GBP140 million from FIFA's earnings.

In the latest development of the club-versus-country conflict, G14 claim it is wrong that FIFA, UEFA and national associations benefit financially from players without the clubs, who pay their wages, receiving any of the money themselves.

Manchester United are among the 18 members of G14 and their chief executive David Gill (Pic. right) said the clubs did not expect to have all the wages reimbursed but that FIFA should share some of the spoils.

Gill said: "We believe that our players are the assets providing the income. This World Cup will be a fantastic event and produce huge, huge profits and the belief of the clubs is that the assets are being provided for free by the clubs.

"At the moment we have to provide them for free at the request of the countries.

Manchester United's view is not that there should be a pound-for-pound reimbursement but we believe there should be a slice of that income that should be distributed to the clubs of participating players on an equal basis."

The debate though is not just about World Cup finances — G14 are also suing FIFA for compensation for players who have been injured on international duty and the divide between the top clubs and the governing bodies is as wide now as it has ever been.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has claimed that G14 are being greedy.

He said: "I am irritated by G14. We had a chat before and then they dropped this bombshell.

"Now they want even more money for the players they have pillaged from Africa and South America.

"If they (G14) want war, they will have it." Blatter sees the elite European clubs as a threat to the national teams. He added: "The wonderful pyramid of football would crumble because of the prestige and elitism of some.

"Once you are in a family, there is a minimum of respect that one should observe."

FIFA's financial success is something of a double-edged sword. Therefore the more successful they are, the more others seek to share in their spoils.

World Cup organisers in the future should also feel assured of their financial security, but the tug of war on the purse strings will only intensify.

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