Rummenigge says balance of power shifting towards clubs

Reuters
ECA Chairman Rummenigge addresses a news conference in Geneva
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European Club Association (ECA) Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge addresses a news conference after ECA's …

BERLIN (Reuters) - European Club Association (ECA) president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge described FIFA's 48-World Cup as "nonsense" on Monday and warned soccer's governing body that the balance of power in the sport was shifting towards his members.

However, Rummenigge, whose organisation represents 220 clubs, played down suggestions that clubs could rebel against soccer's governing body by refusing to release players for international matches and tournaments.

"The increase from 32 to 48 teams is actually nonsense, we had a format which everyone was happy with" he told an audience at the Spobis conference in Duesseldorf.

"At the end of the day, there are the top clubs such as Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, the big Spanish and English clubs, Paris St Germain, Juventus," said Rummenigge, who is also Bayern's chief executive.

"That is a shift of power that neither UEFA or FIFA can stop and things have changed dramatically in the last few years," added the former West Germany forward, who was sharing the stage with Borussia Dortmund's chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke.

FIFA voted earlier this month to increase the size of the World Cup from 32 teams to 48 from 2026, fulfilling a campaign promise of its president Gianni Infantino, who was elected last year.

"If the big clubs were to refuse to allow their players to take part, that would not be in the interest of the fans," said Rummenigge.

"FIFA need to step away from politics and from finance and pay more attention to football.

"The World Cup is a most extraordinary event, it's the biggest sports event in the world and FIFA must deal with this matter in a more responsible matter and more democratic," he added.

Watzke was equally critical of FIFA but also rejected a boycott.

"Europe's top clubs have the feeling at the moment that they are not taken seriously enough by FIFA," he said. "But nobody is interested in such a break-up, neither the clubs nor FIFA."

Watzke also criticised the standard of international football and the number of games.

"When you sit down after a hard day's work to watch Germany play San Marino, you're asleep on the sofa within 15 minutes," he said.

Rummenigge said that the ECA had a good understanding with European soccer's governing body UEFA but FIFA was different.

"The Africans have different interests to the Europeans and the Asians have different interests to the Africans that is something which is difficult to solve, for any president," he said.

(Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne, editing by Ed Osmond and Pritha Sarkar)

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