FIFA to pay for national team players' insurance

SUZAN FRASER Associated Press Published:

ISTANBUL (AP) -- European football clubs had a successful day at the UEFA Congress on Thursday, winning financial concessions from both the continent's governing body of the sport and FIFA.

Clubs were promised an increased share of €100 million ($131.6 million) from 2012 European Championship revenues, and FIFA finally agreed to create an insurance policy for players called up on national team duty.

"Today is an excellent day," European Club Association chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told officials from UEFA's 53 member nations. "This day proves that there is harmony, loyalty and fairness in European football."

Still, Rummenigge called on FIFA President Sepp Blatter, sitting in the front row, to work more closely with the 200-member ECA after months of public sparring between the pair.

"Please open the door to FIFA," he said, urging Blatter to negotiate a renewed working accord hours before the clubs and UEFA were signing a similar deal. "We are not after a revolution. We want to play a fair part in decisions."

Earlier Thursday, Blatter offered a significant olive branch -- and promise of future compensation --to clubs worldwide.

Blatter told the annual congress that FIFA will pay for "total insurance coverage" for international players.

"This is an insurance coverage for the players, for the clubs and the (national) associations" for all matches on FIFA's international calendar, Blatter said. "You have to take into account the best interests of the players."

The policy can take effect after its 208 national members approve the proposal at their gathering in May. European qualifying matches for the 2014 World Cup begin in September.

FIFA's insurance offer follows UEFA, which said in January it would pay for insurance starting at Euro 2012 , after strong lobbying by the ECA.

UEFA said Thursday that its insurance scheme would operate for all players registered with a European club "pending FIFA's takeover of such package on a worldwide level."

Clubs campaigned after Bayern Munich lost Arjen Robben for six months when the Netherlands winger returned injured from the 2010 World Cup.

Rummenigge, who is also chairman of Bayern, lamented at the time that Robben "came back in worse condition and now we have to pay the bill."

Rummenigge had urged FIFA then to use some of its billion-dollar reserves from World Cup revenues to fund an insurance scheme.

The insurance schemes are topped up by compensation funds for clubs to get a slice of major tournament revenues. The money is distributed among clubs worldwide per a daily rate for as long as each player is involved in the tournament

FIFA and UEFA set aside the cash sums as part of a deal to recognize the ECA as the democratic voice of Europe's biggest and wealthiest clubs in 2008.

On Thursday, UEFA and its president, Michel Platini, almost doubled the €55 million ($72 million) originally promised to clubs from Euro 2012, to be played in Poland and Ukraine.

UEFA also announced that clubs will share €150 million ($197.5 million) from Euro 2016 revenues, when the tournament in France is expanded from 16 to 24 teams.

FIFA shared $40 million among clubs whose players were selected in the 32 teams at the 2010 World Cup.

However, Rummenigge complained that Bayern received only €57,000 (then $73,000) -- less than one week of basic pay -- for Robben's time spent in South Africa.

Clubs could also receive a further bonus next week from FIFA, which currently has budgeted to give $70 million in compensation to clubs for letting their players compete at the 32-nation 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Despite FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke saying this month that the $70 million was a fixed agreement, the subject is on the agenda when the FIFA executive committee meets March 29-30 in Zurich.