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Daily Telegraph

THE European Union yesterday urged football’s governing bodies and the European Commission to “go the extra mile” in crucial talks to amend the game’s transfer system.

Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson, who holds the EU presidency, replied to Gerhard Aigner, chief executive of the game’s European ruling body UEFA, saying it was time for all sides to make an extra effort to reach agreement.

The EC have said the current system, where clubs demand a fee for in-contract players, breaks EU employment rules. They have warned they may impose their own regulations if UEFA and the sports’ world authority FIFA cannot agree rule changes.

This could prompt the biggest shake-up in international football since the 1995 Bosman ruling outlawed transfer fees for out-of-contract players.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter and UEFA’s Lennart Johansson were due to meet EU commissioners in Brussels last night to try to finalise a deal before an EC deadline.

Amelia Torres, spokeswoman for competition commissioner Mario Monti, said: “We do hope this will be the final edition.” Broad areas of agreement have been reached after nearly six months of negotiations but the parties are still divided on two key issues.

Persson, replying to a strongly-worded appeal from UEFA’s Aigner, said: “It seems to me that the discussions have reached a level where it is necessary for everyone to go the extra mile in order to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution. I would like to urge all sides to make such an effort.”

The two obstacles to a deal are: what penalties to impose on players, or clubs, who unilaterally breach contracts, and how clubs should be compensated for the costs of training and nurturing young talent.

FIFA and UEFA want to bar players between the ages of 23 and 29 — at the supposed peak of their careers — from switching clubs during the first three years of a five-year contract. After they reach 29, the so-called `protected period’ comes down to two years.

FIFA/UEFA have also proposed that players who breach contracts during those protected periods should be banned from playing for up to a year. Brussels wants shorter bans.

The final negotiations centre on how to link these sanctions to two transfer `windows’ — one in the winter and one in the summer — outside of which no transfers can take place. No one has yet ruled out the need for further talks if there is no deal on Monday.

Aigner raised the temperature of the talks last week in his letter to Persson. He said the EC’s position on sanctions would be “extremely disruptive to domestic and European club competitions, with the potential of distorting those competitions at a crucial stage of their development.”

UEFA are also angry at the EC’s position on compensating smaller clubs who develop players lower down the professional pyramid before transferring that player to another club.

This is a basic element of the way soccer works, the starting point in a food chain which links Europe’s third and fourth divisions with the lucrative Champions League.

EC officials, wary of hindering the free movement of players, want to restrict compensation for the smaller clubs. Aigner accused EC officials of hypocrisy and said UEFA could not offer further compromises in this area.

Persson said all parties had a duty to agree a new transfer system that would help youngsters realise their dream of becoming successful professional players.

“Football is not only elite competition,” the Swedish Premier wrote. “It is first and foremost a vehicle for social integration, friendship and a healthy lifestyle.”

Two Inter Milan officials and one from Italian league leaders AS Roma were named yesterday in the latest twist to the false passports scandal.

The Inter officials were chief executive officer Rinaldo Ghelfi and technical director Gabriele Oriali, who played in Italy’s 1982 World Cup-winning side. The Roma official was sporting director Francesco Baldini.

All three were named by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) in connection with the case of Inter’s Uruguayan forward Alvaro Recoba, who was found last month to be in possession of a false Italian passport. Recoba was also named.

The FIGC, in a statement issued from their Rome headquarters, referred the four men to the disciplinary committee of the Milan-based Football League.

That effectively means the federation believe they have a case to answer. The League will now consider the case and decide what action, if any, to take.

The FIGC charged all four with “using a passport, apparently issued by police authorities in Rome, with the aim of exceeding the maximum limit for the number of non-EU players who can be registered with the Football League”.

© Mihir Bose

      

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