Over the years, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has done his fair share of complaining over international fixtures. This is mainly because many players are injured while playing for their countries and return to their clubs on crutches. You can’t really blame him, but he also says young players need to gain experience and what better way to do so than playing in major football tournaments. However, you can’t have it both ways. You either support international football or you don’t.
Wenger might be a little more accommodating from now on though when it comes to releasing players to their national teams. The main reason for any turnaround in attitude would likely be due to FIFA’s recent announcement that will see football’s world governing body pay for the insurance policies of players who are representing their countries.
FIFA met with the top football clubs from Europe on March 22 at the UEFA Congress and things worked out well for the teams since they were promised to be paid an extra 100 million euros from this year’s revenues of the European Championships and FIFA boss Sepp Blatter finally caved in and agreed to take care of players’ insurance policies.
The European Club Association (ECA) is run by former German star Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and consists 200 clubs that come from 53 UEFA nations. The German has been after FIFA to cover insurance plans for quite some time and has often criticized Blatter in public over it. As usual, it took Blatter ages to realize what’s best for the sport, and finally said FIFA will pay the entire costs for insurance coverage.
He said the coverage is for all FIFA matches and the players' and clubs' interests need to be taken into account. However, if Blatter really felt this way the matter would have been taken care of long ago. Like video replay in football, he always fights against improvements to the sport until he simply has no choice but to agree with them.
The 208 FIFA-member nations still have to approve the move and they’re expected to do that at a meeting in May. Of course, Blatter only decided to pay insurance costs after UEFA had already agreed to it back in January. This will see all of the teams being covered for Euro 2012 by UEFA and FIFA will start covering the costs when the World Cup qualifying games return to action around the world. The European qualifying for Brazil 2012 gets underway in September. UEFA said all players with European clubs will be covered until FIFA takes over later in the year.
The fuss started when Dutch winger Arjen Robben returned to German club Bayern Munich after the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and was injured. He then missed six months of action with Bayern, where Rummenigge is the chairman. Rummenigge said it wasn’t fair for clubs to lose their top players and also have to pay the bill for it. He asked Blatter to loosen some of the strings on the billions of pounds that FIFA has in reserve and asked him to start paying for players’ insurance.
Of course, he didn’t get anywhere with Blatter until UEFA boss Michel Platini agreed to fund an insurance scheme for European teams. With the plan, clubs are paid a daily rate for each player who is way with their national teams. For instance, if the Gunners had seven players away on national duty they’d receive daily payments for each player until they return to the club.
In addition, Platini promised to share more of the money made from the upcoming European Championship tournaments and said the clubs will split 150 million euros from the Euro 2016 event in France. In comparison, FIFA and Blatter only offered about 30 million euros to the clubs who supplied players to the 2010 World Cup. Rummenigge said that Bayern received just 57,000 euros from FIFA for the entire time Robben spent with Holland in South Africa, which is far less than one week’s wages.
While Wenger might feel a little bit better about the new offer from FIFA, you have to remember it’s just a monetary figure. Sure, it helps things out when somebody is offering to pay for insurance policies and time spent with national teams, but players are still going to be injured during games. Unfortunately, all the money in the world can’t guarantee against that.