Thursday, May 17, 2007

Malaysia's CYC promoter on taking FIFA to court

Secretive London-based Gifted Group Ltd, the promoter of the Champions Youth Cup scheduled for Malaysia in August, together with the G-14 group of top European football clubs, have brought a lawsuit against football’s world governing body, FIFA, at the Civil Courts of Brussels. They have asked for interim measures to prevent FIFA from negatively interfering with the organisation of the CYC and have also lodged a complaint against FIFA with the European Commission, accusing it of abusing its dominant position.

"In 20 years in this industry, I have never previously taken or threatened legal action against any sporting organisation and it is with great regret that I do so now. FIFA’s actions however, have left us with no alternative," GGL Chairman Jonathan Price said in a statement quoted by the New Straits Times. "Their behaviour does not seem to be compatible with their purported mission ie, ‘the good of the game’. The Champions Youth Cup is a force for good, driven by sporting considerations and pitting the best young footballers in the world against each other to gain international experience. FIFA's reversal of their previous decision has placed us in an impossible position. We have acted at all times in accordance with their regulations and in good faith on the basis of their initial decision. Consequently we have entered into agreements with broadcasters, sponsors, and suppliers and we cannot simply walk away from these.

"We have communicated to FIFA via the Football Association of Malaysia that the Champions Youth Cup is not a G-14 tournament and that they do not have an operational role in it. I have never sought to hide G-14’s support for the Champions Youth Cup and they have assisted us greatly in coordinating invitations to their member clubs. But there is nothing in FIFA’s regulations that says you are not allowed to talk with G-14 or that not doing so is a condition of obtaining sanction. We can’t sit around hoping that our representations via third parties will bring a change of heart.

The reality is that we are contractually obligated to the Malaysian Government to run a tournament in a little over two months’ time and FIFA’s actions are causing us great damage."

"We fully respect the Asian Football Confederation and the importance of the Asian Cup. We have noted president Mohamed Hammam’s comments that European teams are welcome in Asia in August and I do not believe that a youth tournament in August will cause any harm to Asia’s premier competition taking place in July. We have, however, written to the AFC to confirm that we do not wish to detract from the success of the Asian Cup. Our commitment on this front is in no way diminished by the actions we have taken regarding FIFA. I sincerely believe that we are on the same page as the AFC when it comes to the future development of the game in Asia. Unprompted by any of the game’s governing bodies; we have embraced a long term development approach to give something back to Asia. Our host agreement with Malaysia includes a commitment from the participating clubs to provide development assistance. On Friday and Saturday of last week, the Malaysian Under-16 team trained at and played against Arsenal as a result of this initiative. I defy anyone to suggest that this can be considered as anything other than hugely positive".

"All we want to do is to organise a youth tournament and not get dragged into the politics of the sport. In this regard, I have obligations to a number of parties but perhaps most importantly to the Malaysian people who deserve the chance to watch the world’s best young players in action and to future generations of Malaysian children who deserve the chance to play football at the highest level"

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