SBJ/September 1 - 7, 2003/InternationalPrint All
In a hugely controversial move, Italian soccer's Serie B is being expanded from 20 teams to 24 after a government decree last month. Catania, Genoa, Salernitana — the three teams set to drop from Serie B to Serie C1 at the end of last season — will play in Serie B this season. Fiorentina will move up to Serie B. Nineteen of the 20 current Serie B teams in Italy said they would boycott the new season, which was set to start last Saturday.
PICTURE THIS: The Spanish subsidiary of Columbia TriStar Pictures is the new main sponsor of Spanish soccer club Atlético Madrid. The deal, worth $3.2 million a year, means that the team will promote the company's new releases in Spain during the course of the season. Each month the team will advertise a different film. The first to be emblazoned across the front of the team's shirts is likely to be "Bad Boys II."
AMERICAN INTEREST: The North American Sports Network, which launched in December in the United Kingdom on the Sky Digital platform, now has an estimated 18,500 subscribers. At a rate of $16 a month, that means gross subscription revenue of about $3.5 million a year. A new distribution deal with Telewest Broadband has expanded the channel's reach to 8.5 million households. NASN airs abundant live Major League Baseball and will show a lot of college football. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is one of the owners.
RISE IN ARRESTS: The number of soccer-related arrests in England and Wales last season rose by 19 percent, according to new statistics from the Home Office. There were 4,793 arrests in 2002-03, compared with 4,035 the previous year, and 3,695 of these arrests were at league matches, which represented the highest number since 1995. Arrests related to Premier League matches rose 24 percent, from 1,318 to 1,636. Authorities said there appears to be an increase in misbehavior by fans in their teens (as opposed to their 20s). Behavior was much improved at Nationwide First Division team Millwall in the Docklands area of London, which has had a particular reputation for fan violence. The number of arrests fell from 109 to just 14 last season.
THEY LIKE TO WATCH: Televised soccer is more popular in the Far East than in Europe, according to one survey by the German research company Sport+Markt. The survey found that in the five most important European markets (United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Spain), about 54 percent of people questioned said they liked to watch soccer on TV. This was beaten by the 60 percent of positive respondents in China, Japan and South Korea (all of whom played in the 2002 World Cup). In South Korea, 80 percent of those questioned said they liked to watch soccer on TV.
BONUS OFFER: The Football Association of Thailand has offered the national soccer team $2.4 million as a reward if it qualifies for the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals in Germany.
— Jay Stuart