UEFA Deems Incentives, Gifts to Players 'Bribery'

UEFA, soccer's governing body, clarified yesterday that it deems any financial incentives or gifts to soccer players as bribery. The statement came in response to recent offers of luxury cars in Euro 2008 Qualification matches.

The affair started when British billionaire Fred Done wanted to award Omer Golan with a Mercedes for scoring the winning goal against Russia Saturday. Consequently, British papers announced Spartak Moscow owner Leonid Fedun had said he would donate four Mercedes cars to Croatia's best players if their team would defeat England at Wembley tonight.

In the wake of the report, a writer for Sovietski Sport asked UEFA for its position on the matter. UEFA responded it didn't matter if the incentive were a bonus for an individual game or just a gift, and such an act could result in punishment ranging from a stiff warning to banishment from matches.

UEFA commended the Israel Football Association for its decision to the effect that a player can receive the cash equivalent of a gift but would then have to immediately donate the proceeds to charity. "As far as the UEFA is concerned, the matter will be considered as if the bribe were refused," the UEFA spokesperson added.