European clubs aim to keep players out of Olympics

Feb 8 2011 - 4:28pm

GENEVA -- Some of Europe's best young football players could be kept out of the 2012 London Olympics under a proposal outlined by their clubs on Tuesday.

The European Club Association wants an agreement that players who go to the 2012 European Championships co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine won't be picked for the London Games kicking off one month later.

"I think it does not make sense for a club player to be involved in two major tournaments in such a short period of time," said Umberto Gandini, the ECA vice chairman.

The 197-member lobby fears player burnout from too much international football and is seeking support from FIFA, UEFA and national teams.

Gandini said clubs hoped to avoid "conflict and confusion" that affected the release of players until the eve of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Argentina star Lionel Messi and Brazil's Diego and Rafinha were allowed to play even though the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled their clubs were entitled to deny them permission.

Messi's club Barcelona and Rafinha's Schalke had wanted their internationals to be available for qualifying matches to reach the lucrative group stage of the Champions League, but conceded to the players' and public pressure. Messi then starred in Argentina's gold medal team.

"We hope this time there will be an understanding," said Gandini, whose club AC Milan reached an amicable deal to let Ronaldinho play for Brazil in Beijing.

Manchester United chief executive David Gill, an ECA board member, said his club's Old Trafford stadium is an Olympic venue and was "happy to participate" in the games.

"I think common sense will prevail," Gill said. "A player who is in the Euro (2012) squad shouldn't be in the Olympic squad."

The deal sought by European clubs would affect four teams at the London Games: the British host team and three qualifiers from the eight-nation Under-21 Euros staged in Denmark in June. Spain is favored to advance.

The 16-nation Olympic tournament has an age limit of 23, with teams allowed to pick three overage players.

The CAS ruling, which would still be in force next year, applied only to under-23 players.

Sport's highest court of appeal ruled for the clubs because FIFA does not include the Olympics on its international match calendar. Clubs are obliged to release players for official competitive matches on dates specified up to four years in advance.


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