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SBD/June 12, 2014/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
FIFA President Sepp Blatter yesterday in a speech to a congress of soccer’s top officials "all but declared his intention to run for a fifth term," according to Andrew Das of the N.Y. TIMES. Blatter said his "mission is not finished." He "has put off an official announcement of his candidacy for another four-year term until after the World Cup, but he sent his strongest signal yet that he would run when he told the FIFA Congress in São Paulo" about his intentions. The reputations of Blatter and FIFA "have been battered in recent months by revelations of corruption in the bidding for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which have increased the pressure on Blatter, 78, to step aside." Several top UEFA officials "openly called on Blatter on Tuesday to decline to run in next year’s election." They pointed out that in '11, when he was "elected unanimously to a fourth term in a vote later found to have been rife with vote-buying and influence-peddling, he had promised to retire" by '15. UEFA "appears to be alone among FIFA’s six confederations in its opposition to another term" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/12). The GUARDIAN's Owen Gibson reports FIFA "voted down attempts to consider age and term limits for its executives, in a move that could allow" Blatter to continue as president indefinitely. The referendum "required a simple majority to take the proposals forward to next year’s FIFA congress, where they would have needed the backing of 75% of members to be adopted." Both "were rejected out of hand" (GUARDIAN, 6/12).
ENRAGED IN ENGLAND: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Cowley & Lyons write Blatter's tenure "at the top could be in trouble." This week, criticism "erupted from top European soccer officials" such as UEFA exec member Michael Van Praag and England FA Vice Chair David Gill. Both men urged Blatter not to seek re-election "saying the organization's credibility was at stake." Meanwhile, former FA Chair Lord David Triesman yesterday "used parliamentary privilege in the U.K. to lambast FIFA and Blatter in particular" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/12). In London, Ben Rumsby notes Triesman "stepped up his attack on the governing body, claiming attempts by Blatter to dismiss" corruption allegations surrounding the '22 World Cup "was a tactic that would have been approved by movie Godfather Don Corleone." Triesman: "FIFA, I'm afraid, behaves like a mafia family. It has a decades-long tradition of bribes, bungs and corruption." Triesman "applauded the stand taken by current FA chairman Greg Dyke against the 'grotesque' accusation by Blatter that media investigations into corruption at FIFA were racist" (London TELEGRAPH, 6/12). Also in London, James Ducker notes UEFA President Michel Platini "gave his backing to a European revolt against" Blatter as the pressure on the FIFA president "intensified on the eve of the World Cup." Dyke claimed that FIFA's image has "become 'severely damaged' and expressed dismay at Blatter’s decision to renege on his original pledge to step aside as FIFA president once his fourth term ends next year" (LONDON TIMES, 6/12).
INVESTIGATIVE INSIGHTS: FIFA Chief Investigator Michael Garcia -- a former U.S. prosecutor -- yesterday said that he "would review fresh information related to his investigation into the bidding processes" for the '18 and '22 World Cups, but "won't delay his final report." He said that his team has "examined the reports and related documents, and said that the 'majority of that material has been available to us for some time, since well before the recent wave of news reports.'" He said that he has "gone to 'what appears to be the original source' of that data, and will review all of the information before issuing a final report" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/12). Garcia said that he "had spoken to a representative of every one of the bidding committees involved" in the '22 vote (London INDEPENDENT, 6/12). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Matthew Cowley noted Blatter yesterday "called for more integrity and better governance in the sport, as he sought to head off mounting allegations of mismanagement and corruption." Blatter: "It is our duty to keep football going forward but also to keep our governance and our control bodies installed. It is our duty to lead by example and behave like an example, with integrity" (WSJ.com, 6/11).
FLEXING ITS MUSCLES: In Columbus, Michael Arace wrote under the header, "FIFA Gives Black Eye To International Soccer." The "dizzying rate of salacious stories has deadened the senses of soccer fans" and it is "difficult to keep track." FIFA "uses strong-arm tactics to extract tax relief, change laws and even implement temporary judicial systems in host countries." It "holds the world’s most powerful sport hostage, operates without transparency, is corrupt beyond belief" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 6/11). The FINANCIAL TIMES' John Gapper writes FIFA is a "corporate governance disaster that is also one of the most successful multinational enterprises on earth" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 6/12). HBO's John Oliver, who bashed FIFA over the weekend, was on NBC's "Late Night" and host Seth Meyers said, "You basically called out FIFA for being probably the most corrupt organization." Oliver: "FIFA is awful, but the products they push are amazing" ("Late Night," NBC, 6/11).
MLS Commissioner Don Garber today promoted the impact the World Cup will have on MLS, noting that 22 players from the league will participate in the event and will be "waving the flag of Major League Soccer." Appearing on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street," Garber noted their presence should raise MLS' profile and let fans know that "right after this Cup is over, we've got an MLS team in your market." He said, "You should come out and support the beautiful game here in the United States, and also in Canada." CNBC's Scott Wapner noted the World Cup "couldn't come at a better time" for the league, with two new teams joining next year, Spain F David Villa signing with NYC FC and David Beckham working to get a stadium in Miami. Garber noted, "It's been a real great time for us in MLS. The league is not yet 20 years old, but by the end of the decade we'll have almost 24 teams, we're building stadiums all over the U.S. and Canada." He noted the league has added "great players that are either international guys" or players like Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley, who "will be the stars of the U.S. national team, guys who have come home to the United States, come home to Major League Soccer." Garber: "You think about where we are compared to where the other major leagues have been at this time in their life span, we're doing pretty darn well. We feel good about it."
GETTING IMPATIENT WITH MIAMI: Garber acknowledged that Miami recently rejected a second proposed stadium site for an MLS facility, and if Beckham cannot get a stadium, his option for a franchise expires. Garber: "Not only does Miami not get a team ... it will be a shame for David Beckham, who would not be able to execute his option. This was our second setback in Miami. We're scratching our head. We think we've got an unbelievable proposal. We're offering to privately finance the entire stadium. You have David Beckham, who will have a financial partner that will be among the biggest anywhere in the world. Somehow we can't seem to convince the politicians down there to provide us with an opportunity to pay for a stadium in their city. If we can't get it done, we're not going to Miami, and I think that'll be a shame for the residents in that city" ("Squawk on the Street," CNBC, 6/12).
IMPACT-FUL MEETING: In Montreal, Pat Hickey noted Garber this week met with Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre to discuss "ways that the Impact and the league could participate in the city's 375th birthday" in '17. The MLS All-Star game "could be on the schedule, but Garber suggested that the league would be looking for some well-heeled sponsors to help make it happen and that it was important to find the right team to play the All-Stars." Meanwhile, the three Canadian franchises "are among the most successful in MLS but Garber doesn't see any further expansion north of the border" (Montreal GAZETTE, 6/11).
The NFLPA has “long permitted financial arrangements -- fiscal and otherwise -- between players and agents to exist on nebulous terrain," but current rules make it "difficult to oversee what is permissible behavior,” according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSPORTS.com. There remains “far too much leeway for money to exchange hands” under these arrangements and they are all “perfectly fine until the inevitable he-said/he-said emerges over what was agreed to verbally, as players hop from one agent to another.” Yet the union “stipulates it is impermissible for a contract advisor to offer money or anything else of value to encourage players to sign with them.” In a climate that often includes “bidding wars where agents spend large sums of money to land a top player,” the current rules make “policing what is being said between these sides increasingly difficult.” The time “seems right to put much stricter limits on the types and amounts of money changing hands.” This was a “major topic of conversation” in February at the NFL Combine. Numerous agents said that NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith asked agents to “submit a proposal on how to enforce the matter.” Sources said that the agent community is “supporting the ideal that no more than $25,000 should be allowed to ever exchange hands between an agent and his client.” NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir of External Affairs George Atallah “declined to get into specifics of what changes may be coming, but confirmed the dialogue between agents and top union officials on the matter.” The proposal presented to Smith “governing financial relationships” between players and agents “includes but is not limited” to marketing guarantees, marketing advances, stipends of any kind, loans, signing bonuses or similar third party arrangements. The proposal also prohibits a contract advisor from “seeking re-imbursement through the NFLPA Arbitration process for any money spent on a client in this regard over $25,000” (CBSSPORTS.com, 6/11).