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Is FIFA Losing its Influence?
New York Sun, November 21st, 2007 4:15PM



The tenets of capitalism dictate that money and power go hand-in-hand, resulting in the worldwide trend known as globalization. As the business of soccer follows that same inexorable progression, FIFA, the nonprofit international organization that governs the game, is losing its influence.

Soccer guru Paul Gardner sheds light on the topic in a New York Sun column. He says the perennial struggle between club vs. country is the pivot on which the issue turns. FIFA, thanks to its command over the World Cup and the national organizations that preside over the domestic leagues, has the authority to tell clubs when and under what circumstances clubs have to release players for international competitions. Of course, it's the clubs who pay for players' wages and other things like injury insurance. They are understandably very
annoyed when one of their players is injured on international duty (Newcastle striker Michael Owen is perhaps the best and most enduring example). They also claim that they have to release players for international competitions too frequently, putting their prized investments at greater risk of injury. There is currently an EU lawsuit in Belgium over precisely this matter.

Meanwhile, the biggest clubs are attracting the interest of private equity -- groups or individuals looking to turn global brands like Manchester United and Liverpool into more efficient moneymaking machines. The popularity of club soccer is growing, diminishing the importance of the international game, where there is far less money to be made. Gardner says that in 10 years it's conceivable that a global super-league could replace the World Cup.

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