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FIFA President Sepp Blatter yesterday "blasted critics trying to 'destroy'" FIFA, as he "launched a staunch defence of his scandal-tainted organisation," according to the AFP. Blatter, speaking to the Asian Football Confederation gathered in Sao Paulo ahead of FIFA's 64th Congress, branded his critics "destroyers." He said, "They want to destroy, not the game, but they want to destroy the institution, because our institution is too strong." Blatter said FIFA was "so strong we are sure they'll not destroy it." Blatter's "rallying cry comes as FIFA faces mounting pressure" over its '10 decision to award the '22 World Cup to Qatar. FIFA investigator Michael Garcia yesterday "was to finish his inquiry" into the '22 vote and the '18 bid contest, won by Russia. However, his report "will not be handed over to the FIFA adjudicatory chamber until mid-July, when the World Cup final is held." Blatter yesterday said that he "expected FIFA's ethics to decide what, if any, action to take over Garcia's report in three to four months time" (AFP, 6/10). Meanwhile, REUTERS noted the African congress "passed a resolution condemning what it called the British media's racist attack on its officials." Blatter said, "Once again there is a sort of storm against FIFA relating to the Qatar World Cup. Sadly, there's a great deal of discrimination and racism and this hurts me" (REUTERS, 6/10).OLIVER'S TWIST: Sunday's edition of HBO's "Last Week Tonight" featured host John Oliver taking shots at FIFA regarding the organization reportedly accepted bribes in return for awarding Qatar the '22 World Cup. Oliver called FIFA a "comically grotesque organization" and noted Brazilians are unhappy and protesting over the country's expenditures for building infrastructure needed to host the World Cup. Oliver used an analogy to explain how the host country spends billions for the event but FIFA earns all the revenues, "Brazil, let me put this in terms you might understand. Think of money as pubic hair and FIFA as wax. They're going to be all over you during the World Cup but when they go they're taking all the money with them, including some from places you didn't even know you had any money." Oliver also noted FIFA pressured Brazil into changing their laws to allow beer sales in World Cup stadiums because Budweiser is a "key sponsor" for FIFA. Oliver noted, "FIFA seemed anxious to protect Budweiser from a law designed to protect people. ... The amazing thing here: FIFA won. They successfully pressured Brazil into passing a so-called 'Budweiser bill' allowing beer sales in soccer stadiums. At this point you can either be horrified by that or relieved that FIFA wasn't also sponsored by cocaine and chainsaws." Oliver challenged the fact that FIFA is a "humble, non-profit organization" with $1B in bank assets, which Blatter called a "reserve." Oliver: "A reserve of a billion dollars? When your rainy day fund is so big you've got to check it for swimming cartoon ducks, you might not be a not-profit anymore." He closed with, "By this point, I hope I've proven to you that FIFA is just appalling, and yet here's their power: I am still so excited about the World Cup" ("Last Week Tonight," HBO, 6/8).
THE PLOT THICKENS: Former IOC Marketing Dir Michael Payne in a special to the FINANCIAL TIMES notes the "decision by a number of leading World Cup sponsors -- Sony, Adidas, Visa, Coca-Cola and Hyundai-Kia -- to express concern publicly about allegations surrounding the election of Qatar as host of the event in 2022 has added a new dimension to the developing crisis" facing FIFA. In the final days leading up to the World Cup, sponsors "would expect to be maximising the return on their investment by fine-tuning promotional and hospitality programmes, not moving into crisis communications mode and being forced to defend their partnerships." Neither FIFA nor its corporate partners "can afford a continued slow release of revelations." The "doomsday scenario for the companies is that the situation is allowed to drag on, turning one of the most powerful sports partnerships toxic" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 6/10).
Patriots Owner Robert Kraft yesterday "made it sound" as though bringing the NFL Draft to Boston is "not something he would be heavily involved in," according to Shalise Manza Young of the BOSTON GLOBE. Kraft noted that Boston Mayor Martin Walsh is "looking into having the NFL Draft in the city." Kraft: "That’s a decision for Mayor Walsh, who has called me and said he is very interested in it, and he has had his staff working with the NFL. We’d love to see it happen. It’s about, do we have the proper venue in the city of Boston and what it would do for tourism and the so-called ‘sizzle’ factor. I know they’re seriously considering L.A. and Chicago as geographically well-suited to do this, but I think now there’s some consideration for maybe even splitting the draft in two parts and doing it in different cities and moving it around" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/10). NJ.com's Eliot Shorr-Parks noted the Draft "won't be coming to Philadelphia." Despite the efforts by city officials and the Philadelphia Sports Congress, the NFL "appears to have crossed off the 'City of Brotherly Love' as a possible host" for the '15 Draft. Philadelphia Sports Congress Exec Dir Larry Needle said, "We are in a wait-and-see approach. But we are not optimistic." Shorr-Parks noted it is "still possible the NFL could circle back to Philadelphia -- if potential deals with the other cities fell through." But Philadelphia's "lack of large venues ultimately cost it a chance at hosting the draft" (NJ.com, 6/9).
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has yet to suspend Colts Owner Jim Irsay following his March arrest for DUI, and while the exact discipline is unknown, it is thought Irsay is facing a “six to eight-game suspension” in addition to a $1M fine, according to sources cited by ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Sources added that there also is the possibilitiy that owners may “have to submit to drug testing.” Schefter said, “This is a huge issue facing Roger Goodell and the NFL. Everybody around the league, especially the players, is waiting to see exactly how Commissioner Goodell rules on this particular case.” A decision is expected prior to the start of the season. Schefter said, “There’s another legal matter later this month, and I think they want to wait for as much of that information to come in before Commissioner Goodell makes his ruling" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 6/6). PRO FOOTBALL TALK’s Michael David Smith wrote it is still unknown “what a suspension of an owner would constitute.” Smith: “Would Irsay just be prevented from attending games? Would he be banned from the team facility throughout the suspension? If he’s suspended during a meeting of NFL owners, would the Colts lose their vote? Would the Colts lose their share of the league’s TV revenues from those six to eight weeks, just as players who are suspended lose their salaries for those weeks?” (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 6/7).
HIT WHERE IT HURTS: ESPN.com's Jeffri Chadiha wrote if Goodell "wants to send a message" to Irsay, he "shouldn't be thinking solely about a steep fine or a suspension." Goodell also should be "eyeing taking away draft picks, which are the only currency that has real value when it comes to disciplining wealthy men in team sports." The minute Goodell "snatched a second-round pick or even a couple of mid-round selections from somebody as powerful as Irsay, the entire league would take notice." His credibility also "wouldn't be nearly as questionable as it's become in the wake of this entire episode" (ESPN.com, 6/9).
NFL Exec VP/Football Operations Troy Vincent said after mentioning in April the NFL's interest in establishing a developmental league, he "got more than 100 proposals." Vincent: "I think that shows it is worth a look." The AP's Barry Wilner noted Vincent cited "a bunch of reasons" why such a league is likely to get off the ground, "from training coaches and officials to finding players to testing rules." The league "won't be an international venture." Instead, it "probably would be done regionally, cutting down on travel costs" (AP, 6/6). ESPN's Adam Caplan said there is "no question" the NFL will establish a developmental league. Caplan: "When you talk to executives around the league, they want this, coaches want it." He said the "biggest drawback" is money, because when NFL Europe shuttered in '07, it "was a big money loser." ESPN's Andrew Brandt: "There's a lot of momentum behind it" ("NFL Insiders," ESPN, 6/9). In Cincinnati, Paul Dehner Jr. noted the NFL is the only league among the four major sports "without a developmental league/farm system of some sort." With "so much thirst for the product year round, it would only make sense to add games to help fuel the NFL Network as well as give fringe players an opportunity to prove themselves" (CINCINNATI.com, 6/9).
CONFLICTING EVENTS: ESPN BOSTON's Mike Reiss wrote Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater’s remarks about "preferring to be with his teammates at organized team activities instead of the required NFL Players Association Rookie Premiere last weekend echoed a thought I had" when it came to Patriots rookie QB Jimmy Garoppolo "having been in the same situation." Reiss: "Why not hold the premiere in late June or early July so rookies -- already behind because of the later-than-normal draft -- don’t miss valuable practice time with teammates?" The intentions of the event "seem solid, but the execution seems to make things harder on these new union members" (ESPNBOSTON.com, 6/8).
BALANCING THE BOOKS: In Boston, Ben Volin wrote, "We like the idea behind the NFL Players Association's proposal to have player salaries apportioned out over 52 weeks instead of bi-weekly during the regular season." But with that said, the "most the NFLPA should do is make the 52-week system optional for players, who still should favor the current system." If a player is "truly concerned about his cash flow, he should authorize his agent or financial adviser to disperse the money evenly throughout the ear, not the team" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/8).