FIFA creates $100M fund to insure player salaries

GRAHAM DUNBAR AP Sports Writer Published:

ZURICH (AP) -- FIFA has set aside $100 million to insure the salaries of all players against injury on official national team duty.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter said Friday that the worldwide policy should take effect on Sept. 1, and will cover all matches played on FIFA international calendar dates.

The move will satisfy European clubs who have long campaigned for help to pay the salaries of their injured international players.

However, FIFA appeared to put itself back in conflict with some clubs over the traditionally contentious issue of releasing players for the Olympic Games.

FIFA said its executive committee agreed a compulsory rule for clubs to release players aged under-23 for the London Olympics in July -- even though clubs are legally not obliged to cooperate because the tournament is not protected on the international calendar.

In other decisions from a two-day executive meeting, "cooling breaks" were approved for players in FIFA competition matches played in "hot and humid" conditions.

With club vs. country tensions a perpetual issue for FIFA to address, Blatter acknowledged that the insurance scheme was overdue.

"Perhaps we should have done so a long time ago," he said at a news conference. "It's to the benefit of everyone from Djibouti to Italy."

FIFA's 208 member nations must approve the policy at their congress on May 25 in Budapest, Hungary.

UEFA has pledged to insure players at the European Championship in June and July, before FIFA is scheduled to take responsibility for a worldwide policy.

FIFA and European clubs also clashed during negotiations to agree an international calendar for 2015-18.

The finalized schedule restricts international matches to nine double-header fixture dates within a two-year tournament qualification cycle. National teams can then play twice within each nine-day period protected for international matches, with clubs obliged to release any player selected.

FIFA has listened to club demands to abolish the single-match friendly dates in February and August from 2015.

Blatter said he had welcomed European Club Association chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge back into FIFA's headquarters this week, after the pair had traded barbs in recent months. Clubs would now help "flesh out" the calendar which will run through the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the FIFA president said.

However, Bayern Munich chairman Rummenigge and Blatter could be on opposite sides of a dispute about players selected for the London Olympics.

Switzerland has qualified, and last week named 20-year-old Xherdan Shaqiri in its provisional squad for matches that clash with preseason preparations for his new club Bayern.

FIFA's new compulsory release rule conflicts with a Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics that upheld clubs' right to retain their players.

Also Friday, FIFA said South Sudan would join as its 209th member in Budapest.

Indonesia's federation was given a June 15 deadline to resolve issues over a breakaway national league.