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Players Give Federations a Run for the Money

July 07, 2002|GRAHAME L. JONES

The root of all evil has wormed its way to the surface again, but not everything that has to do with money has been bad this past week. Some of it, yes, but not all.

South Korea, for instance, managed to turn an unseemly squabble over World Cup bonuses into a public relations coup.

The Korean Football Assn. awarded each of the 23 players who helped the country finish fourth a tidy 300 million won, or $251,500.

Coach Guus Hiddink, who masterminded the campaign, pocketed the same amount, to go along with the $1 million he had been given earlier because Korea advanced past the first round.

Turkey, meanwhile, decided that as long as its players couldn't get their hands on the gold cup, they should at least be able to garner something for finishing third.

So the Turkish Football Assn. showered its players with 300 gold coins apiece, and Coach Senol Gunes received 600.

"We know that our players are not playing for money," TFA head Haluk Ulusoy said when Turkey reached the quarterfinals, "but we will, of course, try to give them a bonus."

Of course.

The Turkish government, sensing a mint to be made, produced the first of what will be 300,000 commemorative silver coins honoring the Turkish team for its achievement.

The coins, being sold at $9 apiece, feature the names of the Turkish players on the obverse.

Time for Ronaldo

Brazil, which won the World Cup, has made no mention of bonuses for its players, but Ronaldo has taken matters into his own hands. Or at least his own wrist.

The striker is embroiled in a legal dispute with Montega, a Swiss watch company from which he is seeking $4 million.

Ronaldo several years ago signed a $5.2-million contract with Montega to promote its R9 watch--R for Ronaldo's name and 9 for his number--but claims that the company paid him $1.2 million, then stopped payments once he was sidelined because of a series of knee injuries that curtailed his public appearances on behalf of the company.

Montega is trying to get the $1.2 million returned. The squabble is headed for arbitration.

The Taxman Cometh

Two days after he had helped Brazil win the World Cup, midfielder Rivaldo was handed a $1.77-million demand by Spanish tax authorities, who claimed he had not paid taxes on "image rights" income he received from his club, Barcelona, and Catalan television between 1997 and 1999.

According to the Spanish daily newspaper El Pais, under Spanish law "a player can deduct a maximum of 15% of his total image rights, the rest is considered like salary [and hence taxable]."

Rivaldo is disputing the claim.

Meanwhile, former Dutch stars Ruud Gullit, Marco Van Basten and Frank Rijkaard accepted a prison sentence of three months from an Italian court for tax evasion that occurred during their playing time with AC Milan more than a decade ago.

None of the three will actually serve any time behind bars. Under Italy's often peculiar laws, a three-month sentence converts into a fine of $1,465, which the three readily paid.

Compensation, Please

Bayern Munich, the club that traditionally produces most of Germany's national team players--although Bayer Leverkusen did so this year--is looking greedy and is threatening to set a troublesome precedent by its latest action.

The club is seeking some sort of financial settlement from the DFB, the German soccer federation, for the injury that midfielder Sebastian Deisler suffered while playing for the national team against Austria in May.

The right knee injury knocked the promising Deisler, 22, off the World Cup roster and will keep him out for another five months.

Bayern Munich wants compensation.

"We believe that we must come to some agreement on this," former national team player Uli Hoeness, now Bayern's commercial manager, told the German sports news agency SID.

If the DFB agrees, it could open a multitude of problems worldwide.

Money, Money, Money

One reason top clubs such as Bayern Munich get into frequent arguments with their respective national associations is the amount of money they stand to make or lose in European club competitions.

For example, Real Madrid's victory in the European Champions League this season netted the Spanish club an astonishing $36.36 million.

That was the lion's share of the $520 million that the Union of European Football Assns. (UEFA) paid out to the 32 teams that played in the Champions League.

Bayer Leverkusen, which finished second, earned not much less at $33 million, and Manchester United and Bayern Munich each netted more than $30 million.

England Wins, for Once

According to the accounting firm of Deloitte and Touche, the English Premier League's income rose 18% to $1.9 billion in the 2000-2001 season, the latest for which figures are available.

That makes the Premier League the world's richest.

"If the World Cup had been based on finance and economics, we'd be bringing the trophy home right now," Gerry Boon, head of Deloitte and Touche sport, told Reuters.

"The business of football should not be compared to the Internet world of boom and bust," Boon said. "Football clubs are far more robust and resilient than many dotcoms ever were....

"Football is not just a few smart guys with a new idea and a pile of venture capital funding. This is a real business indelibly woven into the fabric of national life."

All of which will come as no comfort to the family of Nelson Hu, the manager of a Hong Kong clothing export company who asphyxiated himself by setting a fire in the sealed bathroom of his home in Bangkok, Thailand, last week after racking up World Cup gambling debts of $238,000.

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