Thursday, July 28, 2005

FIFA: money-spinning tours harm Asian leagues

The world football governing body, FIFA has joined the growing chorus of concerns about exploitation of the developing Asian market by some of the richest football clubs, particularly Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United, which use the European close season to visit the Far East with the aim of boosting their brands.

"I understand that a trip like this is good for the Bundesliga and for Bayern," FIFA general secretary Urs Linsi said at a pre-World Cup conference when asked about the German club's trip. "But what is the effect in Asia? The big leagues in Europe become popular in Asia but we get the feedback from the Asian countries looking to develop their leagues and they have problems. They need sponsorship income themselves but that is going to European clubs," Reuters quoted.

"It's a fact that in some Asian countries they are having to schedule their own matches to take into account the top European leagues, playing their games when there are no live broadcasts from England, Italy or Spain.

"The Asian football associations come to FIFA and complain that something is wrong. This is a question of solidarity. The big clubs are getting stronger and stronger and making life difficult for the smaller countries."

Real Madrid's current tour of Asia could net them a reported $25 million but players such as David Beckham have expressed concern about the physical toll of the travelling and changes in time zone.

Linsi said it was up to clubs to decide how to use the non-match periods on the international calendar but he said those taking part in promotional tours should not then complain of over-exertion of their players.

"If these rest periods are used for tours that can be useful for the club -- it can create fan loyalty, it can be great, but I don't think this is so good for the preparation of the players," Linsi said.

"The clubs cannot complain about overtaxing their players and they can't say they don't want to release players (for international matches)."