FIFA lays down law on releasing of Olympic players

Sepp_blatter_isiphotoscom

                                                        Photo by ISIphotos.com

In the ongoing power struggle over whether or not U-23 star players will be allowed to play in the Beijing Olympics, FIFA president Sepp Blatter has stated his position, sending out a letter to all member associations stating that the release of under-23s is obligatory, reports the Telegraph.

"The release of players below the age of 23 has always been mandatory for all clubs," Blatter said in that letter. "The same principle shall apply for Beijing 2008."

As you’re probably well aware, each nation is allowed three overage players, although those players may be denied the right to play by their club teams. However, for players within the Olympic age range, release is mandatory. While many clubs have complied with this rule — Manchester City with newly-purchased 21-year-old Jô and Manchester United with 20-year-old Anderson, both Brazilians, come to mind — a couple have not.

Barcelona claims that La Liga has backed their decision to not release Lionel Messi, 21, to the Argentina squad, claiming that clubs are under no obligation to release their players. Two other Brazilians, both based in Germany, are heavily involved in the situation as well. Werder Bremen is trying to deny world-class forward Diego, 23, from leaving, while Shalke 04 are looking to stop Rafinha, 22, from going as well, though both players have joined their Olympic squad.

Blatter condemned these actions in his letter by saying, "It would appear to be against the spirit of the Olympic regulations to hinder players under the age of 23, who are actually the core of the squads participating in the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament, to take part in the final phase of the event."

Just because Sepp Blatter is involved doesn’t mean the battle for club teams to retain their star players is over. Bremen are not ready to mandate Diego’s participation just yet, saying they will take their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Personally, I think it’s time for some of the world’s biggest clubs teams to accept their fate and move on with their season preparation, but then again I’ve never been faced with the idea of putting a major investment at risk in a foreign tournament.

Think Barca, Bremen and Shalke should quit their belly-aching? Should Brazil have fielded such a stacked team likely knowing it would create conflict with certain clubs? Will Blatter’s letter have any effect on the situation or do you think it will be a long drawn-out process? Share your thoughts below.

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29 Responses to FIFA lays down law on releasing of Olympic players

  1. kpugs says:

    I agree that these teams should just release the players and move on. I understand their concerns but there’s nothing they can do.

    Apparently this letter was rejected by Barca, who are waiting a FIFA ruling on “separate” specific issue of Messi, and only Messi.

  2. kyle says:

    Should Brazil put such a stacked team out? Of course they should. Its not their fault they have good youth players.

  3. Original Aaron says:

    Personally- I don’t see what’s any different about this letter from Blatter, considering FIFA made a statement a few weeks ago saying that clubs had to release U-23 players. Until FIFA gives definite penalties for non-complying clubs, nothing will change

  4. kyle says:

    Should Brazil put such a stacked team out? Of course they should. Its not their fault they have good youth players.

  5. adam says:

    Let the boys play, and move on.

  6. Freddy says:

    I can understand if the clubs were b*tching about releasing OVERAGE players, but underage? That’s ridiculous. The underagers have a right to be in that tournament as it is a U-23 tournament.

  7. RK says:

    I can’t believe clubs are doing this. It is the Olympics — not the Free Kick Competition.

  8. gaucho says:

    There is no good reason why any players over age 23 should be at the Olympics. Make it a pure U-23 tournament and be done with it.

    If I was a club president, I’d be doing the same thing as Werder here. They’ll of course give in at the end of the day, but it’s worth trying to push the envelope with FIFA.

  9. AJ says:

    Sepp Blatter opened his mouth and nothing dumb came out?

    Maybe the Revs can win the MLS Cup after all!

  10. Patrick says:

    Gaucho, Diego of Werder Bremen is an under 23 player so they are no different than Barca (Messi) or Schalke (Rafinha) in that regard.

  11. Jamie Z. says:

    Sepp Blatter opened his mouth and nothing dumb came out?

    Maybe the Revs can win the MLS Cup after all!

    Posted by:AJ | July 23, 2008 at 06:14 PM

    I was going to say the exact same thing…except for the Revs part.

  12. brian says:

    Since the introduction of the Dream Team, the Olympics have become somewhat of a farce. Let the kids play. (not excusing what the Soviet bloc used to do, either).

  13. Ted says:

    In my opinion, if a club refuses to release a healthy U-23 player for the Olympics, then bar them from using that player in any matches for the duration of the Olympics and fine the club.

    There has to be penalties for this, or else clubs will start to refuse to release players for friendlies on FIFA dates, then WCQ, etc. FIFA nees to put it’s foot down so it maintains some sort of power.

    Anybody else think it is funny that the ECA thinks it can stand up to FIFA? The ECA deals with UEFA, and UEFA is backing FIFA on this, so I don’t understand what the ECA is trying to prove.

  14. Adam M. says:

    The truth is that it doesn’t matter what the rule is except that it be known, applied equally, and enforced. The Olympics are not run by FIFA, so FIFA can set whatever rule it wants. If FIFA says that all U-23 players can go, and that is unquestionably the rule they set, then they should go and the clubs should hardly be surprised. If FIFA says clubs don’t have to release over-23 players (and they don’t because they don’t ever want the Olympics to compete with the World Cup), so be it and the national teams should plan accordingly.

    What makes the most sense? Probably don’t let any over-23s go and allow all u-23s go. Maybe permit each club to “protect” one u-23 player or limit the number of players that any one national team can pull from any one club. But the clubs’ positions on Diego et al. seems pretty indefensible.

    Maybe someone in Europe will figure out that having decorated Olympians on your side is a pretty good for marketing.

  15. KingSnake says:

    It’s not belly-aching when the teams are on the hook for the player’s salaries …

  16. Javier says:

    i disagree. it’s not right that these clubs have to risk so much, on games that do not benefit them at all.

    there should be an agreement on compensation to the clubs, if the players get hurt playing games that aren’t for the culb. FIFA, the countries, or the players themselves (the least fair way), should at least insure the contracts, if not provide compensation in addition to that.

    i’m not saying the clubs are innocent victims in every matter, far from it, but they have every right to be upset in this case. the sport is also a business, and the clubs’ investments should be protected.

  17. CACuzcatlan says:

    Clubs know before signing players that there are risks involved. They know they will lose players for FIFA dates and the Olympics. They decide to sign the players to huge contracts anyways. They should be forced to release players and they shouldn’t be given compensation unless they can prove reckless or unsafe behavior from the player’s national team.

  18. CACuzcatlan says:

    Clubs know before signing players that there are risks involved. They know they will lose players for FIFA dates and the Olympics. They decide to sign the players to huge contracts anyways. They should be forced to release players and they shouldn’t be given compensation unless they can prove reckless or unsafe behavior from the player’s national team.

  19. Felix says:

    It’s the same Euro-snob attitude that permeates competitions like the African CON. If it’s a tournament they value, like the Euros and obviously the World Cup, you’d never hear anything out of them, but when it’s a competition they don’t value, like AFCON or the Olympics, some of these clubs put up a big stink. It’s hypocritical and childish. These clubs make more than enough money to field deep squads to be able to compete for the short time these players are away. I’m rarely say this but good for FIFA.

  20. KingSnake says:

    Not that this has anything to do with FIFA — other than incompetence — but DC-HOU is delayed. Again.

    53:26 -54th Minute.Match Delay — Stadium Lights Out.

  21. Jon E says:

    Yeah, the clubs are to blame here. They knew when they signed those players that they ran the risk of losing them for the Olympics. They gambled, they lost. Tough for them.

    I sorta like the idea of FIFA prohibiting any club from fielding a player who’s been called up for the Olympics during the Olympic period. But that’s only a start–some clubs would still keep the players home to prevent injury or just out of pique. I’d actually prefer FIFA simply state that any team that denies permission to a U-23 player to go to the Olympics will be denied entry to the next FIFA-sanctioned inter-league championship they qualify for, even if it’s ten years from now.

  22. CACuzcatlan says:

    Jon E., I second your punishment idea.

  23. northzax says:

    don’t most countries already insure players on national teams? I recall the FA settling with Newcastle for ten million pounds or so over the Michael Owen injury suffered on National Team duty…

  24. Bill says:

    I think most are missing the point. These players are contracted for years of service. And if they get injured in olympics, they will pay the players regardless of game-time. What the teams want is FIFA to provide the insurance so if an injury occurs..FIFA plays their contracts for ‘missed work’.

    Follow the money trail and you’ll realize it’s got little to do with warm-ups with pro-team vs game-time in beijing.

  25. Seth|NYC says:

    Simple solution: Take soccer out of the Olympics. Everyone wins.

  26. Ted says:

    “I think most are missing the point. These players are contracted for years of service. And if they get injured in olympics, they will pay the players regardless of game-time. What the teams want is FIFA to provide the insurance so if an injury occurs..FIFA plays their contracts for ‘missed work’.”

    1) Clubs know players are eligible for national duty when they sign them. They sign players to contracts with full knowledge that the player could miss time with the club (part of the reason there are FIFA dates). Hell, some contracts even include bonuses for being called up the national squad as it brings exposure to the club.

    2) Players do not get paid by their club for the time they are on national duty.

    3) National associations have their own insurance policy to cover a player’s wages for the club if a player does get injured while with the national squad (it varies from country to country).

    4) If a situation occurs where the policy does not cover a player’s wages, as in the Michael Owen / FA situation mentioned above, clubs can sue for more money. Newcastle got a lot when they sued the FA.

  27. jdawg says:

    the teams aren’t totally in the wrong here. international competition shifts the upside to the organizations (the Olympics, FIFA, etc.) while leaving the downside solely with the club/team that owns the players contracts and is stuck with a potential catastrophe if a key player is injured. Of course, the international organizations wont share in the upside (revenue), so the situation is unfair. Yes, you can insure against the downside, but still the clubs have no gain on the upside and in reality the insurance probably doesn’t make them completely whole if a star player is injured.

    you can’t really say “they knew about the risk of being called up,” because a team needs good players to be sucessful, and those goods will of course be called into international organizations. Its not as if the clubs opted-in to the itnernational system; in reality, the international system is imposed on them by FIFA or the Olympics.

    (these are generally the points that Mark Cuban correctly made about the NBA and the Olympics)

  28. Nutmegger says:

    Ted – Nice analysis. I would add 5) for the Olympics: Clubs have made significant investment in these younger players, and most of them expect that the players will not likely be with them for their entire career. So they have to look at the potential for earning a return on that investment. So not only are they looking for insurance for lost wages, but also on the expected return they may get by selling the player 2-3 years out.

    It’s one thing to have that return impaired by injury when the player is playing a match that benefits your own club, and quite another to have it happen when they are playing in a mandated game for someone else. Until the economics around National Team duty is resolved for the clubs, including expected return on investment, we are going to continue to see clubs balk at releasing players whenever they can.

    NM

  29. Jon E says:

    @ jdawg: Sure, the clubs aren’t getting the revenue from the Olympics and they are running the risk. But that’s always been the case with national-team duty, and FIFA rules on the Olympics and other national-team call-ups haven’t changed recently. The clubs ultimately benefit from FIFA membership more than they suffer from it, and I’m not sympathetic to their trying to reap the benefits of membership without paying the costs. If they want to get together and try to change the rules–eliminate the FIFA protection for U-23 call-ups, eliminate national-team play altogether, then fine. But simply refusing to acknowledge the rules and holding hostage the players who want to go to the Olympics and have every right to go is small-minded and unfair.