KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has stepped down as chairman of the European Club Association while warning separately about challenging times ahead for football’s leaders – including successor Andrea Agnelli.
The 61-year-old former Germany captain is proud of what the ECA, with 200-plus member clubs, has achieved since its inception in 2008. However, he dispensed with the happy positivity in a cautionary interview with the German magazine Kicker.
On Monday Rummenigge delivered a farewell address in Geneva on the first day of the ECA general assembly which followed up today by electing Juventus president Agnelli as successor*.
The Bayern chairman told ECA members: “ECA has achieved more than we dared to hope . . . Over the past 10 years we have never given up our sense of solidarity. The small ones understand the big ones, and the big ones bear responsibility for the small ones.
“The reform of the European club competitions has proven this again. Everyone will benefit from increased revenue, and we have increased solidarity payments by more than 40pc from €199m to €284m. I am proud of that.”
Rummenigge acknowledged the co-operation of world and European governing presidents Gianni Infantino of FIFA and Aleksander Čeferin of UEFA, who attended the assembly. He also paid tribute to ex-UEFA president Michel Platini who laid the groundwork for ECA’s creation.
However, in his interview with Kicker, Rummenigge – after the flurries of concern prompted by Paris Saint-Germain’s splash on Neymar and Kylian Mbappe – urgent bothpresidents to undertake urgent high-level talks aimed at controlling club finance.
He said that European transfer spending “had abandoned reality” which was why “it is important that club football takes its responsibility.”
Rummenigge added: “It is important that the ECA is now trying to work with FIFA and UEFA, as well as with [players union] FIFPro, to make criteria that make the whole thing a little more rational. These four groups must try to find solutions both with each other and with the policy.
“I was with the then UEFA president Michel Platini several times in Brussels [at the European Commission]. Platini wanted to enable football to develop its own culture and to introduce topics such as a salary cap, similar to American sport, but it was forbidden.
“This was a mistake that European policymakers made at the time. Today, there are signs from Brussels about a review of that issue. That is why I would advocate a joint initiative.
“I believe that my successor at the head of ECA, together with presidents Infantino and Ceferins, plus FIFPro, could once again start an attempt to coordinate matters with Brussels.”
Rummenigge challenged the concept of unfettered competition, in business or sport.
He told Kicker: “There is nothing basically wrong with competition. If, however, competition becomes too irrational and bad for the people and the product of football as a whole, one must try to control it to a certain extent.
“I am in favour of a more controlled and rational competition. Football depends on its roots. Everyone, including the clubs, must make a contribution to this.”
UEFA, over the weekend announced an urgent investigation into the summer transfer spending of Paris Saint-Germain – whose president, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, is a member of the ECA executive committee.
The European federation is concerned about possible breaches of its financial fair play regulations, about whose effectiveness Rummenigge has doubts.
He said: “It was clear from the beginning that financial fair play is not a sword of wood but also no sharp sword either. It should have been implemented with more rigorous penalties and then it would be up to the club, if it wishes, to complain against UEFA at the European Court of Justice.
“I don’t think many would have dared.”
** ECA clubs will be represented on the UEFA executive committee by Andrea Agnelli and Arsenal ceo Ivan Gazidis.
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