UEFA money to clubs supplying players for national team duty should encourage football administrators to maintain a home-grown policy in the local game, European Clubs Association representative John Borg told Times of Malta.
Last week, UEFA announced it had distributed over €150 million in compensation to a long list of clubs after releasing players for the 2016 European Championship qualifying stage and finals.
Twelve Maltese clubs were among those who benefited from the share with €826,799 going into their coffers.
Birkirkara received €219,406.24, Hibernians €173,869.09 and Valletta got €157,310.13.
Apart from the traditional big guns the list also included sides like Naxxar Lions (€12,419.22), Pieta Hotspurs (€4,139.74) and Qormi (€8,279.48), currently militating in the Division One league.
“The UEFA payment was a welcome bonus for us,” Borg, who represents Birkirkara FC on the European Clubs Association, said.
“Before 2012, the money only went to clubs who had players featuring in the finals of the championship. But the ECA working group, which represents small countries like ours, had made pressure so that compensation was extended to the qualifying phase. After Euro 2012 payments were also handed out to all nations who featured in the first phase.
“A considerable amount of cash went into our clubs’ financial books after Euro 2016 and that was a huge shot in the arm for our game.
“Most of our clubs pay high salaries to sign international players so that should make our administrators think seriously as now we have to preserve this source of income. One way to do that is by strengthening the home-grown philosophy in our league.”
However, the future looks bleak for home-grown talent as late last year it was revealed that the Premier Division Standing Committee were mulling over a total ban on the limit of foreign players in our game which currently stands at seven at one time on the field of play.
If the PDSC proposal receives the go-ahead, it would also make it difficult for Maltese players to showcase their skills and force their way into the plans of the national team selectors.
“From a personal point of view, I am against this idea of having as many overseas players as you want in a team. It’s already critical as it is. These days we’re seeing many talented players having to settle for a place on the bench during Premier League matches and in most cases they deserve to start.
“Inevitably, that will make life difficult for the national coach who expects his players to play week in week out and on a regular basis.
“At Birkirkara, we have players like Edward Herrera, an international, who rarely features in the first team and the same happens to others at other clubs.
“But, on the other hand, the PDSC initiative could also open new doors to our international players on the transfer market.
“Say, if you have clubs in the Italian Lega Pro who do not have international players on their books, they will become more interested in signing our best players and get the UEFA funds in return at the end of the year.”
Borg said that the work of the ECA is benefiting Maltese football not only from the international level aspect but also when it comes to participation in UEFA club competitions.
Last year, UEFA announced a series of changes as from 2018-19 a guarantee of four slots in the group stages of the Champions League to the continent’s leading nations in the game – England, Germany, Spain and Italy.
The changes, approved by UEFA and ECA, will also befit Maltese clubs who compete in Euro club competitions.
“Notwithstanding the changes, small countries like ours held their current quotas, which means one team in the Champions League and three in the Europa League,” Borg explained.
“The biggest incentive for us was the decision that will see teams in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League entering the Europa League when eliminated.”
Borg said that the change ensures more solidarity payments from the European governing body for the sport.
“It will become more difficult for small teams to reach the group stages of the Champions League,” he said.
“But as regards the Europa League we can become more competitive. Last summer, Birkirkara proved that our teams have come a long way in UEFA competitions and with a more favourable draw they would stand a better chance.
“Even from a financial point of view, if our representative team drops out from the Champions League they are guaranteed a higher income than before with participation in the Europa League.
“Extra funds will be available and that helps us to plan long-term and on a more solid footing.”
Maltese clubs payments
Birkirkara - €219,406.24
Hibernians - €173,869.09
Valletta - €157,310.13
Sliema Wanderers - €103,493.51
Floriana - €62,096.10
Balzan - €57,956.36
Gżira United - €15,405.26
Naxxar Lions - €12,419.22
Qormi - €8,279.48
Tarxien Rainbows - €8,279.48
Mosta - €4,139.74
Pietà Hotspurs - €4,139.74
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