SBD Global/February 17, 2017/International Football

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  • FIFA President Infantino To Encourage Co-Hosting Of 2026 World Cup

    FIFA President Gianni Infantino said that the 2026 World Cup "could be split between up to four countries," according to Tom Finn of REUTERS. He announced that FIFA would "encourage applications to co-host the tournament." Infantino: "(We could) ... maybe bring together two, three, four countries who can jointly present a project with three, four, five stadiums each. We will certainly encourage it. Ideally the countries will be close to each other." His remarks could "open the way" to a joint bid from the U.S., Canada and Mexico, which have "already said they intend to hold discussions over the possibility." Concern has been raised about the "financial burden placed on a single tournament host, and the bad publicity generated by stadiums built and then abandoned after use." Swedish FA Chair Karl-Erik Nilsson "quickly backed co-hosting for the World Cup too." He said, "It's a good idea, and Europe has of course previously worked in this way on the European Championships." The idea has "taken off" at the European Championship, with Belgium and the Netherlands co-hosting in '00, Austria and Switzerland in '08 and Poland and Ukraine in '12. The next tournament in '20 "has been designated as Pan-European" and is due to be staged in 13 cities in 13 countries (REUTERS, 2/16). In London, Ed Malyon wrote while "to some extent there is a justification, given the sorry state of Brazil and Greece after staging recent Olympiads and World Cups, it appears to be yet another vote-grabbing policy" from FIFA that does not necessarily have the game's best interests front and center. This would be "huge" for FIFA in terms of sponsorships and growing its "already huge tax-free revenues" from organizing the World Cup (INDEPENDENT, 2/16). 

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  • UEFA To Launch Study Investigating Whether Repeated Headers Cause Brain Damage

    UEFA has "commissioned a research project that will examine the links between dementia and playing football," according to the BBC. Tentative research published earlier this week "suggested repeated headers during a player's career may be linked to long-term brain damage." The FA said that it will "look at the area more closely, but is yet to announce its own study." UEFA said that the project, which will begin on Friday, "aims to help establish the risk posed to young players during matches and training sessions." One Premier League club "will be involved in the study." UEFA's project "follows similar initiatives in other sports." A UK RugbyHealth study is "already examining the long-term health effects of playing rugby, including the effects of suffering frequent concussion" (BBC, 2/16). In London, Wilson & Rumsby reported the football authorities "have promised a series of new studies into the link between dementia and playing football" after being accused of "negligence" for past "failure to carry out research." The new UEFA investigation "will count the number of times children head the ball in real-life scenarios," with the data collected being used during further research into the effects on the brain of repeated impacts. More than 1,000 children will be filmed across two age ranges, 8-12 and 14-16, with "the number of headers broken down into categories, such as those that are intentional and those where a player is struck by the ball" (TELEGRAPH, 2/15).

    PFA DEFENDS RESPONSE: In London, David Conn reported the Professional Footballers' Association "defended its response to the growing number of former players now suffering from dementia," after criticism that the union, clubs and FA are "not doing enough to help them." PFA Deputy CEO John Bramhall said that when the union is "made aware of a former player in need," it tries to provide support "wherever we can." The FA and PFA, in collaboration with both the Premier and Football Leagues, "have now jointly committed to funding new research into the issue," which will inform whether safety measures "should be taken for footballers now." That will "inevitably take time, while the number of players suffering is growing and said by some experts to be disproportionately high" compared with the incidence of dementia in the general population (GUARDIAN, 2/15).

    ST. JOHN SPEAKS OUT: In London, Ian Herbert reported former Liverpool player Ian St. John said that his attempts to persuade the PFA to commission research "examining possible links between dementia and football failed" because the union told him, "Women get it too." St. John: "It’s true that women our age suffer from dementia too, but in the same numbers as men in our industry? I’m not talking about men in our country in general who get Alzheimer’s. I’m talking about the percentage of our little group of professional footballers from the 1960s. I believe this is an occupational injury, a health condition caused by our job as footballers" (INDEPENDENT, 2/15).

    'WHATEVER WILL HELP': The PA reported World Cup winner George Cohen "is willing to donate his brain to science to aid research into dementia in ex-footballers." Cohen and former ManU midfielder Pat Crerand "have both agreed to have their brains examined after death to aid further research." He said, "Whatever will help, I mean why not? It's no use to me anymore at that stage" (PA, 2/16).

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  • Premier League Referee Clattenburg Quits To Take Job In Saudi Arabia

    Mark Clattenburg is "quitting his job as a Premier League official to become Saudi Arabia's new head of referees," according to the BBC. The 41-year-old is "widely considered to be one of the best referees in football" and took charge of the Euro 2016 final, the Champions League final and the FA Cup final last season. Howard Webb, another former top-flight official, resigned as Saudi Arabia's head of refereeing 11 days ago. Clattenburg is "expected to leave before the next Premier League fixtures." His new post will involve working with Saudi referees to "improve performance and professionalise the set-up," while he will also take charge of some league games. He signed a one-year rolling contract. EPL referee body Professional Game Match Officials Ltd. said that Clattenburg had been "a great asset" and "an inspiration to those who want to get into refereeing" (BBC, 2/16). The PA reported the 41-year-old, who became an assistant referee in the Northern League at 18, has reportedly "grown unhappy with the level of public support officials are given" by the PGMOL and has "been linked with various lucrative moves abroad" (PA, 2/16).

    PAY RAISE: In London, Craig Hope reported Clattenburg will "probably get quite the pay rise." Premier League referees are paid around £65,000 ($81,000) per year, plus a match fee of just over £1,000 ($1,250) for every game they do. Most will end up with a salary of just over £100,000 ($125,000). Moving to "cash-rich" Saudi Arabia is "likely to see a big boost to those wages, although full details are not yet known" (DAILY MAIL, 2/16).

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  • Football Notes: FFA Says It Has No Plans To Give Clubs Control

    Football Federation Australia said that "there are no plans to hand over full control of the A-League to the clubs in the near future," but the organization confirmed it is "committed to looking at ways to take the national competition forward." There was "confusion" on Wednesday after a newspaper report suggested the sport’s head body told club owners at a meeting on Tuesday that FFA was "prepared to relinquish control of the national competition as early as next season." However, the indication from sources who attended the meeting is that "there was no hard and fast commitment," no model nor any details put forward by FFA Chair Steven Lowy (THE AUSTRALIAN, 2/17).

    Arsenal's 5-1 Champions League defeat by Bayern Munich "may have a bigger impact" on the club than just European elimination, after "fans flocked to the club’s official ticket exchange to flog their seats for the second leg at the Emirates Stadium." When the match kicked off at the Allianz Arena, "no tickets were available for the second leg on the club’s official ticket exchange website." But "immediately after the full-time whistle, there were tickets aplenty." At least 18 sections "were showing up to have availability inside the 60,000-seat stadium" (London INDEPENDENT, 2/16).

    Scottish Premiership side Celtic "joined forces with other European clubs to push for an expanded 48-team Champions League group stage." Celtic CEO Peter Lawwell "teamed up with the top brass" from Eredivisie sides Ajax and PSV Eindhoven as well as Belgian side Anderlecht last week and traveled to Switzerland "for talks with UEFA." The clubs are "concerned about Champions League reforms which will see teams from England, Spain, Germany and Italy get half of the 32 places on offer." It is understood that the four clubs "are speaking on behalf of a larger group from European football's smaller leagues" (Scotland DAILY RECORD, 2/16).

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