The G-14 knew what they wanted all along, it just took eight years and the presumed dissolution of their organization to get it.
Platini called for the “elitest” G-14 to disband last year, but it wasn’t until Tuesday that he got his wish. UEFA, FIFA, and the G-14 signed a letter of intent, setting out a dissolution of the G-14, including all of its legal claims. This letter of intent paves the way for another association not unlike the G-14 except, perhaps, in membership. Already called the European Club Association, this is good news for smaller clubs who, though their interests may have ultimately been represented by the G-14, were not official members.
It’s no secret that UEFA and FIFA were at constant odds with the G-14. Initially formed to aid negotiations with the latter governing bodies, the G-14 spent a considerable amount of time tied up in court with various complaints. The G-14’s intent was to be a voice of the clubs but evidently if you weren’t a massive club, your voice wasn’t heard quite as loudly, especially since membership was by invitation only. Regarded as a European super league, they seemed to impliedly threaten a possible breakaway unless they got what they wanted. The organization’s aim was to act in the best interests of major clubs in Europe, focused heavily on finances, international play, and compensation for players from their home countries when on international leave, especially if those players returned to their clubs injured. Prior to the 2006 World Cup, the G-14 asked for a percentage of receipts from such tournaments, to compensate the clubs for the force release of their players. This, by all accounts, has been unyielding.
Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s President, initially refused to negotiate or discuss the G-14’s demand. To force UEFA and FIFA’s hands, the G-14 took the international compensation matter to court, however, as the group is set to disband, this presumably dismisses the cases altogether. This legal cease and desist, along with UEFA and FIFA’s promises to give clubs compensation for the time their players are away on international duty, taking into account any injuries, appears to end this matter.
But what is the point of disbanding the G-14 if another club association rises like a phoenix from its ashes? Presumably there will be more room for smaller clubs but that’s not the likely motivator. More plausible is that the dissolution of the G-14 came at the price of both UEFA and FIFA agreeing to compensate players for taking part in European Championships and World Cups. As stated in BBC Sport: “Significantly, the clubs are going to get paid when their players take part in international tournaments,” said BBC sports news reporter James Munro. “All the details have not yet been sorted out but I understand that it is going to be a daily rate irrespective of whether it is £100,000-a-week or £1,000-a-week.”
By all accounts, a major motivator for the G-14 disbandment was the dissolution of their legal opposition in return for what they have been after since forming in 2000. The legal action was likely a financial drain to the clubs that they’d rather be without, and the G-14 acted as a threat to both UEFA and FIFA’s governing powers that they’d rather do without. Likely figuring they would have to pony up the finances for the G-14’s demands in the future anyway, UEFA and FIFA appear more peaceful negotiator, less pressured and weakened organization.
It is not an entirely done deal yet, as some of the legal cases involve clubs outside of the G-14, who will have to agree to drop their claims. As told to ESPN, G-14 general manager Thomas Kurth accepted that Tuesday’s announcement may lead to the group disbanding, but not without further, detailed negotiations:
“The general assembly of G-14 will need to ratify any agreement to disband or end the court cases. We will meet on Feb. 15 and then yes, if all is agreed, we will have to take the decision whether to continue with the court cases. As you can see from the FIFA statement the intention is to resolve the remaining issues on compensation for injured players, the international calendar and a greater democratic say in how the game is run. But any agreement (on the court cases) must have the backing of Charleroi, Lyon and Atletico Madrid as those cases stand on their own and will only go away if all our issues are resolved.”
It’s a positive and probably necessary step that UEFA and FIFA are willing to recognize and compensate the club for players who are injured while off on international duty (something Newcastle would have appreciated a la Michael Owen), but its left to tell what the new, European Club Association will take FIFA to task on next. Perhaps more efforts to promote fair treatment of away fans, and fight hooliganism, as the G-14’s premise and objective appeared to boil down to money, money, and more money.
Barcelona president Joan Laporta, speaking on behalf of all the clubs, expressed his satisfaction with the outcome of the meeting: “Friendship and confidence is the basis for our game. I compliment the UEFA president on having implemented the change he promised when he came to office. It is a victory for all.”
Friendship and Confidence? So that’s what they’re calling it nowadays.