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Cash windfall for clubs as G14 disbands

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Mihir Bose | 12:35 UK time, Friday, 18 January 2008

The deal that Fifa, Uefa and the G14 group of clubs revealed on Monday will see the top clubs at the top table of football, sharing some of the money from World Cups and European Championships.

The G14 clubs, which include Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester United among its membership, will disband as part of the deal.

It comes after years of public bickering and threats of legal action and is the result of secret meetings held all over Europe over the past three years.

The first of these meetings began back in the summer of 2005 at the Youth World Cup in Amsterdam.

John Jaakke, president of Ajax, met the special advisor of Fifa president Sepp Blatter and the dialogue that started continued over many months and years.

Soon there were meetings with Gianni Bettega head of G14 and also David Dein, then vice-chairman of Arsenal, and a major figure in G14.

While these meetings were being held G14 was often publicly at loggerheads with both Fifa and Uefa. G14 had been born amidst major strife in European football, when for a time it seemed the entire structure of European football might collapse.

Created by AC Milan back in 1998 it came about as a result of the threat to the Uefa's Champions League posed by a rival European super league sponsored by Media Partners.

The organisation never made secret of its distrust of Uefa and often threatened to set up its own rival European league.

Peter Crouch (Liverpool), Alessandro Nesta (AC Milan)

For years Uefa refused to recognise that G14 even existed. Indeed at press conferences it became a game to ask Uefa president Lennart Johansen about G14 and be met with the same response, "G14, who are they?"

The low point was reached was when G14 took Fifa to court in the Charleroi case, where the big clubs were effectively bankrolling a court case brought by a club against Fifa for the injury one of its players had suffered while on international duty.

Both Blatter and Johansen denounced G14 and its actions, warning of the consequences of the rich clubs holding the game to ransom. But even as they argued, G14 and Fifa held private talks and an initial breakthrough came in the spring of 2007 just before Dein was forced out of Arsenal.

The then Fifa general secretary Urs Linsi, prompted by Blatter, began to look at providing insurance cover for players involved in World Cups. However, despite this the two sides still had unresolved issues.

Major friction between G14 and Fifa was caused by the International Club Championships, a youth Under-16 tournament organised by G14 and Gifted Group Limited, of England, to be held in Malaysia in August 2007.

Linsi originally approved the tournament but then withdrew Fifa's approval leading to legal action in the courts and a complaint to the European Commission by G14. Blatter, with the help from his special advisor Peter Hargitay, settled the action out of court. It proved a turning point in relations between the two parties.

Eventually in November 2007 G14 put forward detailed proposals on how the two sides could come together, it was these proposals that led to the agreement this week.

It offered to withdraw the Charleroi case and disband, integrating its members into Fifa and Uefa.

It had always been a bone of contention for clubs that organisations such as Fifa and Uefa never talk to clubs, always insisting that their only point of communication was with national associations.

The clubs wanted more direct contact and involvement in producing a harmonised international calendar so that they were not suddenly deprived for instance of their many African players in the middle of the club season because of the Africa Cup of Nations.

They also wanted direct involvement in competition formats such as the World Cup.

They also proposed direct involvement in the organisation and commercial exploitation of club competitions arguing that they are co-owners of the European competitions - the Champions League and Uefa Cup - they play in.

Perhaps the most interesting idea G14 presented was a formula whereby it could earn revenue from the World Cup and European Championships.

The revenue would be calculated as 5% of gross revenue from the tournament, excluding revenues earned by the local organising committee.

It was estimated that for the Fifa World Cup players were required for 24,000 player days, 11,000 player days for the Euros.

The 5% would then be divided by these numbers to work out a daily rate for player which the clubs would be entitled to.

The clubs would be paid by Fifa or the confederations organising the other tournaments.

This payment would not apply for qualifying matches or for friendlies, provided the friendly was played on the continent where the player was registered with a club.

However the insurance cover for players, funded by allocation of a further 5% of the gross revenues from all finals tournament marketed by Fifa and the confederations, would apply to all players whether they were playing in the finals, a qualifying match or a friendly.

The agreement on Monday does not mean all these proposals will go through exactly as detailed, but both sides are now confident that there is broad agreement on how this 10-year fight can come to an end.

The clubs have always felt that the money generated by international tournaments is largely due to the players they nurture and pay for, now they are finally at football's top table they will start to share these riches. Football's governing bodies have now accepted that the big clubs can no longer be left outside the tent.

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