Putin and Blatter accuse EU of imperialism

January 15, 2006

MOSCOW, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin and FIFA president Sepp Blatter on Sunday accused the European Union of 'imperial' aggression in soccer.

'As a FIFA chief I have a big problem. The EU tries to have too much influence on how football is run in EU countries and they are trying to extend that influence to the rest of Europe,' Russian news agency Itar-Tass quoted Blatter as saying during his visit to the Kremlin.

Last month, the European Commission, prompted by British sports minister Richard Caborn, launched an inquiry into European soccer, focussing on the regulation of agents, club financing, home-grown players and the continued investment into grass roots football and stadiums.

The sports ministers of major European football nations such as Spain, France, Germany and Italy, were also involved in discussion on how to reform the game.

Caborn said at the time that his initiative had the support of Blatter and his UEFA counterpart Lennart Johansson.

But on Sunday Blatter said: 'We can't allow 25 EU countries to dictate their rules to 207 nations worldwide.'

Putin agreed: 'It's imperialism in football.'