Top Soccer Clubs Discuss Financial Fears | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 06.11.2002
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Top Soccer Clubs Discuss Financial Fears

The cream of Europe's soccer elite met in Brussels on Tuesday to thrash out measures that could halt the escalating financial crisis that is threatening the sport.


Is the price of success too much to pay?

They are the super-rich clubs that you would expect to get little sympathy from the soccer minnows that face liquidation and bankruptcy week in, week out.

But the inaccurately named G14, a group of Europe's 18 top soccer clubs, are met in Brussels on Tuesday to discuss ways in which they can stem the financial flow that is leaking money from the sport they dominate.

With an embarrassing array of expensive talent on their books, clubs like FC Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Real Madrid and AC Milan were looking for ways to save money as spiraling costs threaten to kill off not just the smaller teams in lower divisions but the livelihood of the giants that divide the game's spoils.

Top clubs agree on salary cap to curb inflation

The subject of players' wages was the number one point of discussion on the agenda. With the payroll figure of most top clubs rivaling the national debt of a small nation, the G14 agreed to a 'salary cap' similar to that favored in the United States which keeps professional sports wages within reasonable limits.

The group grudgingly accepted a restrictive cap on the wages of players in comparison to a percentage of the club's turnover. The figure was set at 70 percent.

The decision marks the first time any form of player salary cap has been agreed to in European soccer since the overthrow of the old maximum wage in the 1960s.

Bayer 04 Leverkusen - Real Madrid

The world's most expensive player, Zenadine Zidane, in action for one of the most in debt clubs.

Although top players themselves may feel burned, the clubs hope that their position is safe as long as rival teams do not break the expected pact and raise their cap to entice stars away from their current employers.

'Gentleman's agreement' will have no legal standing

However, the wage cap is nothing more than a plan to stave off bankruptcy by combating inflation in the game. The G14 has no influential power or official status to impose any new laws within the game.

In reality, it would only be a gentleman's agreement. Whether this would be honored in the event of a hard fought championship race where an injection of expensive talent could secure the silverware, everyone will have to wait and see.

Thomas Kurth, the general manager of G14, says soccer clubs are like any other business - they cannot spend more than they earn. The fact is, however, that many clubs do exactly that and in the quest for success, undermine their own future.

Clubs with expensive squads rewarded with TV cash

At the moment, massive incentives in transfer fees and personal payments are pricing the quality players out of the majority of the market, therefore creating an elite section who can afford to pay the price. This results in an increasing gap between 'the haves' and 'the have-nots' with television money going to the more glamorous leagues and clubs - in effect rewarding the big names for their buying power.

But as the collapse of the Kirch media empire in Germany and the similar dissolution of ITVDigital in Britain shows, when the television money goes, big problems arrive in soccer – problems that affect David's and Goliath's alike.

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